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This is the Second Edition of Volume One 
TERESA OF AVILA, first woman doctor 
of. the Church; iThe translators have 
taken full advantage of all that recent 
scholarship has contributed to a better 
understanding of Teresa and her writings. 
It includes her first major work, the Life, 
and two of her smaller works, the Spiritual 
Testimonies and the Soliloquies. Clear and 
contemporary, this rendering captures 
much of Teresa's spirit while remaining 
faithful to her thought. 

Alsa^ajLailafefe^rom %CS Publications 

containing The Way ajf Perfection and 
Interior Castle 


TERESA OF 'AVILA, Volume Three 
containing The Book of Her 
Foundations; Minor Works, including 
The Constitutions and Poetry 

Washington, D.C. 

ISBN O-9600876-2-1 

The Collected Works 
St. Teresa of Avila 


The Collected Works 

St. Teresa of Avila 


The Rook of Her Life 
Spiritual Testimonies 

Translated by 
Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. 

Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. 


ICS Publications 
Institute of Carmelite Studies 
Washington, D.C. 

Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc. 1976 

Second Edition (Revised) 1987 by ICS Publications 

ICS Publications 
2131 Lincoln Road, N.E. 
Washington, D.C. 20002 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data (Revised) 

Teresa, of Avila, Saint, 1515-1582. 
The collected works of St. Teresa of Avila. 
Includes bibliographical references and indexes. 
Contents: v. 1. The book of her life. 
Spiritual testimonies. Soliloquies. — v. 2. 
The way of perfection. Meditations on the song 
of songs. The interior castle — v. 3. The book 
of her foundations. Minor works. 
1. Catholic Church — Collected works. 
2. Theology — Collected works— 16th century. 
BX890.T353 1976 248 75-31305 

ISBN 0-9600876-2-1 (v. 1) 


The Book of Her Life 

Introduction 15 
Prologue 53 

1 Treats of how the Lord began to awaken this soul to vir- 
tue in her childhood and of how helpful it is in this mat- 
ter that parents also be virtuous 54 

2 Treats of how she lost these virtues and of how impor- 
tant it is in childhood to associate with virtuous people 56 

3 Treats of how good companionship played a part in the 
awakening once again of her good desires and how the 
Lord began to give her some light on the mistake she had 
been making 61 

4 Tells how she was helped by the Lord to force herself to 
take the habit and of the many illnesses His Majesty 
began to send her 64 

5 Continues to treat of her great illnesses, of the patience 
the Lord gave her, and of how He draws good out of evil, 
as is seen in something that happened to her in that place 
where she went for a cure 70 

6 Treats of how much she owes the Lord for having given 
her conformity to His will in the midst of such severe 
trials, and how she took the glorious St. Joseph for her 
mediator and advocate, and of the great good he did for 

her 76 

7 Treats of the ways by which she lost the favors the Lord 
had granted her and of how distracted a life she began 
to live. Speaks of the harm that results when monasteries 

of nuns are not strictly enclosed 82 

8 Treats of the great good it did her not to turn from prayer 
completely and thereby lose her soul, and of what an ex- 
cellent means prayer is for winning back what is lost. 
Urges all to this practice. Tells how it is so highly profit- 
able and that even though one may abandon it again, 
there is great value in giving some time to so great a good 94 

9 Treats of the means by which the Lord began to awaken 
her soul and give it light amid such thick darknesses and 


i Contents 

strengthen her virtues that she might not offend Him 100 
10 Begins to tell about the favors the Lord granted her in 
prayer, of how we ourselves can help, and how impor- 
tant it is that we understand the graces the Lord gives 
us. Asks the one to whom this is sent to keep secret what 
she writes about from here on, for they commanded her 
to speak so personally about the favors the Lord grants her 105 
1 1 Tells of the reason for the failure to reach the perfect love 
of God in a short time. Begins to explain through a com- 
parison four degrees of prayer. Goes on to deal here with 
the first degree. The doctrine is very beneficial for begin- 
ners and for those who do not have consolations in prayer 1 10 

12 Continues the discussion of this first stage. Tells how far 
we can get, with the help of God. through our own ef- 
forts, and about the harm that results when the spirit 
desires to ascend to supernatural things before the Lord 
grants them 1 1 9 

13 Continues with this first stage and gives advice concern- 
ing some temptations the devil at times causes The ad- 
vice is very helpful 123 

14 Begins to explain the second degree of prayer in which 
the Lord now starts to give the soul a more special kind 
of consolation. Explains how this experience is super- 
natural. This matter is worth noting 133 

15 Continues on the same subject and gives some advice 
about how to act in this prayer of quiet. Discusses the 
fact that many souls reach this prayer but few pass be- 
yond. Knowledge of the things touched on here is very 
necessary and beneficial 139 

16 Treats of the third degree of prayer. Explains sublime 
matters and what the soul that reaches this stage can do 
and the effects produced by these great favors of the Lord. 
This chapter lifts the soul up in the praises of God and 
brings wonderful consolation to whoever reaches this stage 147 

1 7 Continues the same subject, the explanation of this third 
degree of prayer. Concludes the discussion of its effects. 
Speaks of the harm caused by the imagination and 
memory 152 

18 Discusses the fourth degree of prayer. Begins to offer an 
excellent explanation of the great dignity the Lord bestows 
upon the soul in this state. Gives much encouragement 



to those who engage in prayer that they might strive to 
attain so high a stage since it can be reached on earth, 
although not by merit but through God's goodness. This 
should be read attentively, for the explanation is presented 
in a very subtle way and there are many noteworthy 
things 157 

19 Continues on the same subject. Begins to explain the ef- 
fects this degree of prayer produces in the soul Strongly 
urges souls not to turn back. Speaks of the harm that 
results from abandoning prayer. This chapter is very im- 
portant and most consoling for the weak and for sinners 164 

20 Discusses the difference between union and rapture. Ex- 
plains the nature of rapture and tells something about the 
good possessed by the soul that the Lord in His kindness 
brings to this prayer of rapture. Tells of its effects. There 

is much to marvel over 172 

21 Continues and concludes the discussion of this last degree 
of prayer . Tells about what the soul that experiences this 
prayer feels upon returning to life in the world and about 
the light the Lord gives it concerning the world's illusions. 

It contains good doctrine 185 

22 Treats of how safe a path it is for contemplatives not to 
raise the spirit to high things unless the Lord raises it and 
of how the humanity of Christ must be the means to the 
most sublime contemplation. Tells about a mistaken 
theory she once tried to follow. This chapter is very 
beneficial 191 

23 Returns to the account of her life, of how she began to 
seek greater perfection, and by what means. For persons 
trying to guide souls that practice prayer it is helpful to 
know how these souls must proceed in the beginning. 
How she profited from knowing about this 200 

24 Continues on the same topic. Tells how her soul made 
progress after she began to obey, how little it helped her 
to resist God's favors, and how His Majesty began giv- 
ing her more perfect ones 209 

25 Discusses the nature of these locutions the Lord grants 
to the soul without the use of the sense of hearing, some 
of the delusions that can result from these locutions, and 
how one can discern when they come from God. This 
chapter is most helpful and gives much doctrine for those 

5 Contents 

who find themselves in this degree of prayer since the mat- 
ter is explained very well 212 

26 Continues on the same subject. Tells and explains about 
things that happened to her, which both caused her to 
lose the fear and confirmed that it was the good spirit 
speaking to her 223 

27 Treats of another way in which the Lord instructs the 
soul, and without speaking to it, makes His will known 
in a wonderful manner. Explains also a non-imaginative 
vision and great favor the Lord granted her. This chapter 

is very noteworthy 227 

28 Deals with the great favors the Lord granted her and how 
He appeared to her the first time. Explains what an im- 
aginative vision is. Tells about the remarkable effects and 
signs this vision leaves behind when it is from God. This 

is a very instructive chapter and well worth noting 237 

29 Continues the topic begun and tells of some great favors 
the Lord granted her and of some things His Majesty told 
her for her own assurance and so that she could answer 
those who contradicted her 246 

30 Returns to the account of her life and tells how the Lord 
removed many of her trials by bringing to the city in 
which she lived the saintly Friar Peter of Alcantara, of 
the order of the glorious St. Francis. Discusses the great 
temptations and interior trials she sometimes underwent 253 

3 1 Deals with some exterior temptations and representations 
of the devil and the torments he inflicted on her. Treats 
also of some matters very beneficial for advising persons 
who journey on the path of perfection 264 

32 Discusses how the Lord desired to put her spirit in a place 
in hell she had deserved because of her sins. Gives a brief 
account of what was shown her there. Begins to deal with 
the way in which the monastery of St. Joseph, where she 
now is, was founded 276 

33 Continues on the same subject, about the foundation 
dedicated to the glorious St. Joseph. Tells how she was 
ordered not to become involved with the project, of the 
time she abandoned it, of some trials she had, and of how 

the Lord consoled her 284 

34 Discusses how at this time it was opportune for her to 
leave the city. Tells about the reason and how her superior 



ordered her to go to console a lady of the nobility who 
was very distressed. Begins to deal with what happened 
there and the great favor the Lord granted her in mak- 
ing her the means by which He awakened a very emi- 
nent person to serve Him wholeheartedly, and how after- 
ward she had this person's support and favor. The chapter 
is most important 293 

35 Continues on the same subject: the foundation of this 
house of our glorious father St. Joseph. Tells of the means 
the Lord provided by which holy poverty would be ob- 
served in it, the reason why she left the lady she was stay- 
ing with and returned, and of some other things that hap- 
pened to her 302 

36 Continues the same subject. Tells how this monastery of 
the glorious St. Joseph was finally founded and of the 
strong opposition and persecution the nuns had to 
undergo after taking the habit. Tells also of the great trials 
and temptations she suffered and how the Lord brought 
her out of them all victoriously to His own praise and 
glory 309 

37 Discusses the effects of a certain favor the Lord granted 
her. Some very good doctrine accompanies this discus- 
sion. Tells how one should strive for a greater degree of 
glory, and esteem it highly, and that we shouldn't neglect 
everlasting goods for any difficulty 323 

38 Deals with some great favors the Lord granted her by 
showing her certain heavenly secrets, and with other great 
visions and revelations that His Majesty wanted her to 
see. Tells of the effects they had on her and of the great 
profit her soul derived from them 329 

39 Continues on the same subject, telling of the great favors 
the Lord granted her. Treats of how He promised to 
answer her prayers for other persons. Tells of some re- 
markable instances in which His Majesty granted her this 
favor 342 

40 Continues with the same subject, telling of the great favors 
the Lord granted her. Good doctrine can be deduced from 
some of these favors; for, in addition to obeying, her main 
intention, as she said, has been to write about those favors 
that will be of benefit to souls. With this chapter the writ- 
ten account of her life comes to an end. May it be for 


the glory of the Lord, amen 354 
Epilogue 364 

Spiritual Testimonies 

Introduction 369 

1 Her spiritual state and manner of prayer 372 

2 Detachment and other virtues flowing from God's favors 380 

3 General account of her state of soul 382 

4 Prophecy of her death 385 

5 God's standards are different from the world's 386 

6 Our Lord encourages her to make more foundations 386 

7 A message to be given 387 

8 Right intention and detachment 388 

9 Public rapture 388 

10 Surrender and joy in God 388 

1 1 Take courage, the order of the Blessed Virgin will flourish 388 

12 Transpiercing of the soul 389 

13 An intellectual vision of the Blessed Trinity 391 

14 Habitual experience of the indwelling Trinity 392 

15 Enclosure and the will of God 393 

16 Prayer for her brother Agustin de Ahumada 393 

17 Desires for death 394 

18 Prophecy about St. Joseph's at Avila 394 

19 Penance and obedience 394 

20 Intellectual vision of a soul in grace and in sin 394 

21 Her vision of our Lady in the choir of the Incarnation 395 

22 Eucharistic experience 396 

23 Am I not your God 397 

24 True humility — Put my counsels in writing 397 

25 The nature of union 398 

26 Do not renounce what awakens love 399 

27 Spiritual improvement at the Incarnation 399 

28 A favor on St. Mary Magdalene's feast 400 

29 Infused knowledge of the Blessed Trinity 400 

30 Her mission in Carmel 401 

31 Spiritual Marriage 402 

32 The way of suffering and love 403 

33 A prophetic vision and victory for her Carmel 404 



34 A spiritual token 404 

35 The vow of obedience to Father Gratian 404 

36 The vow of obedience to Father Gratian 405 

37 Desire to live and serve the Lord 408 

38 Locution about Father Gratian 408 

39 Establishing a feast of our Lady 409 

40 God's omnipresence 410 

41 The constitutions and the Lord's law 410 

42 Infused knowledge of the Trinity 410 

43 Renewal of vows in our Lady's hands 411 

44 Union with Christ in the Eucharist 411 

45 The reform of the monastery of Paterna 411 

46 An effect of the spiritual marriage 412 

47 The value of good works 412 

48 The Lord tells her to record His words 412 

49 God's presence in the soul 413 

50 Father Gratian's health 413 

51 The indwelling of the Blessed Trinity 414 

52 Deep secrets in Communion 414 

53 Intellectual vision of the Lord's nearness 415 

54 Vision of Father Gratian 416 

55 The feast of the Presentation of our Lady in the temple 417 

56 Infused understanding of a Magnificat verse 417 

57 Revelation about the survival of her Carmel 417 

58 Account of her spiritual life for the Inquisitor of Seville 418 

59 The degrees of infused prayer 425 

60 Changing confessors 433 

61 Perfection and poor health 433 

62 Self-love and the desire for penance 434 

63 Forgiveness of sins 434 

64 Counsels for the Discalced Fathers 434 

65 The present state of her spiritual life 435 


Introduction 441 

1 Separation from God 443 

2 Solitude and thirst for souls 444 

3 Merciful Redeemer and just Judge 445 


4 Recovering lost time 446 

5 Loving complaints and petitions; Martha's complaint 447 

6 Painful longing for God 448 

7 Your delight is to be with the children of men 449 

8 Cure the blindness caused by our evil deeds 450 

9 You give living water to the thirsty 451 

10 Raise up sinners from their death 452 

1 1 The fear of endless torments 453 

12 Those who withdraw from God are sick people 454 

13 The souls of the blessed help us in our misery 456 

14 The love and the wrath of God 457 

15 The suffering of longing of God 458 

16 The wounds of love 459 

17 All my good is in pleasing You 461 
Notes to the Life 467 
Notes to the Spiritual Testimonies 492 
Notes to the Soliloquies 500 
Index 504 

The Book 
of Her Life 



Early Years 

Spain, separated from the continent of Europe by the 
Pyrenees, has a high central tableland both dividing the coun- 
try within itself and stretching from the northern mountains to 
the southern coast. Without a natural center and without easy 
routes, this land was in the Middle Ages a disparate region, a 
complex of different races, languages, and civilizations. But at 
the end of the fifteenth century and the opening years of the six- 
teenth, all the natural disadvantages were somehow overcome. 
Spain, with ten per cent of its soil bare rock and only ten per 
cent of it rich, became in the sixteenth century the greatest power 
on earth; this previously remote peninsula was now ruler of the 
largest empire the world had yet seen, and all but master of 
Europe. During those exhilarating years of outward glory, Teresa 
of Avila lived and witnessed ironically to another, inward glory, 
to the sacred truth that becomes the rich possession of every gen- 
uine mystic, that a person's greatest good is within and "won 
by giving up everything" (ch. 20,27). 

Born during the reign of the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand 
and Isabella, Teresa saw, under Charles V, Castile's high mo- 
ment of prosperity. Under Philip II, she saw her king's strug- 
gles against Protestant and Morisco rebels, against the 
Netherlanders in the north and the Turks in the Mediterranean — 
not to mention Philip's many other activities in Europe, Asia, 
Africa, and the New World. 

Teresa's grandfather, a Toledan merchant, a Jewish converso 
(Christianized Jew), victim of the use of religion for the sake 



St. Teresa of Avila 

of political unity, had to accuse himself before the Inquisition 
for judaizing and as a penance was compelled to wear in pro- 
cession for seven Fridays the humiliating sanbenito. After his 
reconciliation, out of necessity, he moved with his family to Avila 
where he was able to continue in his profession as a cloth mer- 
chant. One of his sons, Teresa's father Alonso, was about four- 
teen when the family arrived in Avila. In 1505 Alonso married; 
but two years later his wife died, leaving him two children. Alon- 
so, after four years, married again, this time Dona Beatriz de 
Ahumada, who on March 28, 1515, gave birth to a daughter 
and future saint who received her grandmother's name — Teresa 
de Ahumada. Dona Beatriz died at the age of thirty- three, leaving 
behind from her marriage ten children. 

Biographers have given posterity a detailed description of 
Teresa de Ahumada. She was medium in height and tended to 
be more plump than thin. Her unusual face could not be de- 
scribed as either round or aquiline; the skin was white and the 
cheeks flesh-colored. Her forehead was broad, her eyebrows 
somewhat thick, their dark brown color having a reddish tinge. 
Her eyes were black, lively, and round, not very large but well 
placed and protruding a little. The nose was small; the mouth 
medium in size and delicately shaped, and her chin was well 
proportioned. The white teeth sparkled and were equal in size. 
Three tiny moles, considered highly ornamental in those days, 
added further grace to her appearance; one below the center of 
the nose, the second over the left side of her mouth, the third 
beneath the mouth on the same side. Her hair was a shining 
black and gently curled. 

In many ways an extravert, she was cheerful and friendly, 
a happy conversationalist, whom people found pleasing to hear 
as well as look at. Besides her talent as a writer, she was also 
gifted in the use of the needle and in household tasks. 

Her undaunted spirit first began to show signs of itself when 
she was only seven and decided to set off with her brother 
Rodrigo for the land of the Moors to have her head cut off for 
Christ. With much the same ardor she enjoyed playing hermit 
life with other children — praying, giving alms, and doing 
penances. While she was growing up in this quiet atmosphere 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


of piety, the revolt of the Comuneros took place, shaking all Castile. 
This was a movement of angry reaction to a long period in which 
royal government had eroded many of the traditional powers 
and prerogatives of the Castilian towns. During this period, 
too — in 1525 to be precise — the Imperialist army, largely through 
Spanish troops, won the greatest victory of the age at Pavia. Two 
years later Charles V's armies broke from control and put Rome 
to the most terrible sack it had ever endured. 

It was at about the time of this latter incident that the piety 
of the now adolescent Teresa began to grow cold. She became 
over eager to read romantic tales of chivalry, began to cultivate 
her feminine charms, and to plan a possible marriage. The ab- 
sorption of her fantasy with chivalrous themes along with her 
facility for writing stirred her at this time to try, together with 
her brother, writing a book, of the kind she liked to read. In 
the judgment of her early Jesuit biographer, Ribera, it contained 
"much that could be said for it." 

As time went on, after her mother's death in November 1528, 
Teresa began to meet with opposition at home because of her 
affection for her cousins, sons of her aunt Dona Elvira de Cepeda, 
and her friendship with a frivolous, unidentified relative whose 
influence was not of the kind that strengthened Teresa's piety. 
Teresa was later to look back with much distaste upon this whole 
period in which she lost the fervor of her early years. On the 
watch for an excuse to free his daughter from the vain company 
and enticements she was experiencing, Don Alonso found one, 
in 1531, when his oldest daughter married. At the age of six- 
teen Teresa was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns 
of Our Lady of Grace in Avila. 

Since there was no public education system in Spain at the 
time, Don Alonso's daughter probably learned how to read and 
write at home. Nor could one compare what was offered to her 
in the way of education at Our Lady of Grace to any modern 
boarding school. The nuns did little more, we now conjecture, 
than prepare the young girls for their future life in marriage, 
teaching them the usual household tasks: cooking, sewing, em- 
broidery, and other things of that sort. Undoubtedly the girls 
also received some basic religious instructions. The gentle, friend- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

ly nun, Dona Maria Briceno, who had charge of the girls and 
carefully watched over them, was a woman of deep prayer. As 
things turned out she began to mean more to Teresa than all 
former friends. Dona Maria loved to talk about prayer, and her 
high spiritual ideals made Don Alonso's daughter begin to think 
about a vocation to the religious life and feel more favorable to 
the idea. But it seems the strain caused by the inner struggle 
over the pros and cons of the life of a nun harmed Teresa's health 
so that she had to leave the school. 

When her health improved, she was brought to her sister's 
house in Castellanos de la Canada, but with a stop along the 
way for a visit with her uncle Don Pedro de Cepeda, who lived 
as a hermit in Hortigosa. He introduced her to spiritual books, 
which helped her in the struggles she was experiencing over her 
vocation. The Letters of St. Jerome, finally, became the occa- 
sion of her courage to make a definite decision. But then, unable 
to bear the thought of separation, her father refused to give his 
consent to her becoming a nun. On November 2, 1535, at the 
age of twenty, she once again stole away from her father's house, 
this time not to go off to the land of the Moors but to give her 
life to God as a nun in the Carmelite monastery of the Incarna- 
tion. Yet the action was not the result of so cold or indifferent 
an attitude to her father's feelings as it may seem to have been. 
She later was to write: "When I left my father's house I felt the 
separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater, I think, 
when I die. For it seemed that every bone in my body was be- 
ing sundered" (ch. 4, 1). Don Alonso, in fact, accepted it all with 
resignation, gave her a dowry that was more than substantial, 
and acquired for his daughter a private room of her own in the 

Life at the Incarnation 

Recent studies have shown that at the time of Teresa's entry 
the Incarnation numbered among eleven Carmelite monasteries 
for nuns in Spain. Its canonical status lay midway between that 
of the sanctimoniales , those with the obligation to choir office and 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


enclosure, and that of the beaterws, where the life resembled ter- 
tiary life. The nuns were required to recite the Divine Office 
but not to observe enclosure. They engaged in no outside forms 
of service. Some two hundred persons, including servants and 
nuns' relatives, were living together at the Incarnation in Teresa's 
days there. 

Contrary to common belief, religious life at the Incarnation 
was austere. Days each week were set aside for fasting and 
abstinence; silence was carefully maintained so as to encourage 
the spirit of continual prayer. With many kinds of detailed, 
minute rubrics, the Divine Office was celebrated in solemnity 
and splendor. No time, however, was designated in the legisla- 
tion for mental prayer — a deficiency not without its drawbacks 
in what must have been a crowded monastery. Novices received 
instructions about the Carmelite order, its eremitical origins, 
its devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to the prophets Elijah and 
Elisha. They were also trained in the practice of the intricate 
ceremonies used in the chanting of the Divine Office. 

Oddly enough and irrespective of the Carmelite rule's exhor- 
tation to continual prayer, Teresa states that until reading 
Osuna's Third Spiritual Alphabet, given to her later by her uncle, 
she didn't know how to go about praying or being recollected. 
The spiritual books she mentions were by Franciscan not 
Carmelite authors, and she offers no clear indication of receiv- 
ing instruction about mental prayer during her novitiate training. 

Although Teresa's decision about her vocation had been costly, 
once she was inside the monastery she threw herself into the life 
with zest and found that it, in fact, delighted her. But shortly 
after her profession, which took place two years later, her health 
gave way once more. Authors can only speculate about the nature 
of this illness. Teresa herself attributes it to the food and lifestyle 
at the Incarnation. After the doctors admitted they could find 
no cure for her sickness, her worried father decided to bring her 
to Becedas for treatment by a quack, famous there for many 
cures. The harsh, painful methods of cure, lasting three months, 
only aggravated Teresa's poor condition; in fact they almost killed 
her. She was brought back, a pitiful sight, to Avila, where she 
remained an invalid and paralytic for three years — until, as she 


St. Teresa of Avila 

devoutly testifies, through the intercession of her glorious father 
St. Joseph, she was able to walk again. But, probably as a con- 
sequence, she suffered the rest of her life from miserable health, 
a wide variety of illnesses. Antonio Aguiar, after his medical ex- 
amination of Teresa when she was sixty-seven and nearing the 
end of her life, claimed that it was impossible to find the focal 
cause of her illnesses because her body had become a whole 
arsenal of ailments. 

Able to get about again, Teresa next experienced a protracted 
period of great difficulty with prayer. She writes: "And very often, 
for some years, I was more anxious that the hour I had deter- 
mined to spend in prayer be over than I was to remain there . . . 
and so unbearable was the sadness I felt on entering the oratory, 
that I had to muster up all my courage" (ch. 8, 7). According 
to Fr. Efren, her most recent biographer, her difficulties 
amounted chiefly to a problem of technique. She didn't realize 
that the mind, or imagination, and feelings can wander, as St. 
John of the Cross points out, while the soul on a deeper level 
many remain quiet in a hardly perceptible contemplation. These 
difficulties with prayer went on for about eighteen years until 
she experienced before a very devotional image of the wounded 
Christ and again while reading from the Confessions of St. Augustine 
some unusually strong and efficacious feelings of compunction. 
On these two occasions of peak experience she learned to lose 
completely any trust she had in herself and place it all in His 

Compunction is a basic sentiment running through the en- 
tire Life. To the undiscerning or inexperienced, Teresa's out- 
pourings of compunction might seem like exaggerated guilt feel- 
ings. But for Teresa, true sorrow does not disquiet, does not 
agitate. Her compunction consoled her; permeated with humility, 
it was a gift — quiet, gentle, and in the light (ch. 30, 9). The 
Desert Fathers, in fact, constantly exhorted their disciples to pray 
for the gift of compunction, the gift of tears. These Fathers felt 
that when the soul was softened by this interior weeping, God 
would give the experience of his light; in the shadow of sorrow 
was to be found the spiritual joy of enlightenment. And so it 
was with Teresa. In addition, her feelings of compunction later 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


became more intense through the mystical experience she had 
of God's transcendent majesty, and of the shabbiness of sin beside 
His boundless outpouring love. Spiritual humiliations preced- 
ed her spiritual exaltations. "I don't recall His ever having granted 
me one of the very notable favors of which I shall speak if not 
at a time when I was brought to nothing at the sight of my 
wretchedness" (ch. 22, 12). 

Teresa began, then, at the time of this conversion, to ex- 
perience passively and in a living way the presence of God in 
the center of her soul. To qualify experiences in prayer that she 
couldn't acquire through her own efforts but that were experi- 
enced passively Teresa often used the term "supernatural." With 
the onset of the supernatural another, new life began for her. 
"This is another, new book from here on" (ch. 23, 1). 

Unfamiliar, unusual experiences started to occur, and Teresa, 
not yet enlightened about the stages of prayer, felt the surge of 
a new fear. "His Majesty began to give me the prayer of quiet 
very habitually — and often, of union — which lasted a long while. 
Since at that time other women had fallen into serious illusions 
and deceptions caused by the devil, I began to be afraid" (ch. 
23, 2). The fear so increased that, she says, it made her diligently 
seek spiritual persons for consultations, marking the beginning 
of her struggles to explain her supernatural experiences. This 
recourse to spiritual men, and learned ones as well, led ultimately 
to the writing of her Life. 

In the Context of Her Times 

Readers nowadays can not readily grasp the reason for Teresa's 
fears, and for those of her confessors, unless they have some no- 
tion of the spiritual movements and problems existing in Spain 
during the sixteenth century. Spain at that time was a world 
in effervescence not only politically but also spiritually. A long- 
ing for deep spirituality took hold among the people themselves 
and pervaded their lives, having at its center three basic 
characteristics: a call to the interior life; the practice of mental 
prayer; and strong leanings toward higher levels of the mystical 
life. Giving support to this spiritual rebirth was the Spanish 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Catholic reform initiated before the Council of Trent and cham- 
pioned by the militantly fervent and energetic Cardinal Cisneros. 
It coincided with the first half of Teresa's life. Prior to the work 
of Teresa there were other highly influential reform movements, 
those of St. John of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Benedic- 
tines, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans. Newly founded 
printing presses offered to the people a large supply of literature 
on prayer and the interior life: translations from the Fathers, 
from the Italian, Flemish, and German schools, from Erasmus, 
the scholastics, the Protestants, and the humanists. The cross- 
fertilization of ideas chat resulted from contact among these 
schools and movements was only to be expected. 

Previously, medieval Spain had been the most tolerant land 
in Europe, with Christian , Mohammedan, and Jew living ther e 
side by side in peace and sometimes, in the closest friendship. 
But such relations did not last; in a country devoid of political 
unity a common faith was gradually seen to serve as a tool for 
binding together Castilians, Aragonese, and Catalans. In the 
constant interplay between politics and religion, the establish- 
ment of an Inquisition throughout Spain was seen as a conven- 
ient means to further the cause of Spanish unity, deepening the 
sense of common national purpose. 

Now since in the Netherlands Christianity had developed a 
strong pietist strain, tending to stress mental prayer at the ex- 
pense of forms and ceremonies, and in the Florence of Savonarola 
it had acquired a visionary, apocalyptic character, having an 
appeal to a number of Spanish Franciscans at that time in Ita- 
ly, Spain was to find devotees for both these types of 
Christianity — particularly among devout women, often referred 
to as beatas, and among Franciscans of converso origin. It was only 
in the early years of the sixteenth century, however, that these 
types began to inspire any form of religious movement. For along 
with a push for the reform of the ecclesial community and of 
individuals, they gave rise to an illuminist movement which pro- 
duced excellent as well as distorted forms of spirituality . Its 
members were known as alumbrados . 

The alumbrados linked up with the movement of Erasmus in 
its stress on inwardness and its reaction against the misuse of 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


devotional practices and formalism. They later divided into 
groups having common trends but distinguished by certain dif- 
ferences. Those known as the recogidos attached highest impor- 
tance to recollection. This term referred to the effort the soul 
makes to withdraw from and forget everything* created so as to 
allow itself to be penetrated by the divine action. The other 
group, called the dejados, built its spirituality on the idea of 
self-abandonment . 

In the course of years an evolution took place that accentuated 
the slightly divergent directions. The partisans of recollection 
were very largely of the religious orders. Their efforts were 
directed to building up a technique of the interior life and men- 
tal prayer for the sake of helping souls along the path to total 
nakedness of spirit and union with God. These partisans gradual- 
ly became known as the "spiritual men," or "men of experience." 
Since this recollection was practiced above all among the Fran- 
ciscans, it was not surprising that a Franciscan friar, named 
Osuna, should give the movement its definitive expression in 
his Third Spiritual Alphabet. 

The supporters of abandonment on the other hand insisted 
more and more, sometimes imprudently, on the importance of 
interior inspiration and passivity and opposed all exterior devo- 
tion. This form was promoted particularly by the Franciscan, 
Isabel de la Cruz and her disciple, a layman, Pedro de Alcaraz. 

The heart of the spirituality by the aiumbrados is identical with 
that of other illuminist movements. It brings into greater focus 
the importance of mental prayer, contemplation, and the 
manifestations of mystical phenomena. In this sense, Osuna, 
Laredo, and Teresa herself can be considered among the aium- 
brados. Where there was danger, it lay in exaggeration, in an 
exclusivism with which these themes were proposed, and in the 
practical consequences of such distortions. For example, through 
mental prayer one acquits oneself of everything else — works of 
penance, asceticism, and virtue. Furthermore, it was taught that 
as a means of avoiding any detriment to abandonment, recollec- 
tion, or quiet, one should abstain from interior acts and exterior 
works, even from turning one's thoughts to Christ in His humani- 
ty. All of this, it was claimed, as well as obedience, did harm 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to the union contracted with God through passivity and aban- 
donment. Once united to God through passivity and abandon- 
ment a person could not sin. As always this unqualified teaching 
gave rise to some depraved moral consequences. For example, 
in 1529 the Inquisition arrested a leading woman illuminist, 
Francisca Hernandez. The circle this attractive woman gathered 
around her in Valladolid consisted of alumbrados , some of whom, 
it seems, freed from their qualms by such a theory, brought their 
spiritual companionship with her down to the level of the 

In addition, an unrestrained infatuation with ecstasy and other 
extraordinary phenomena developed. These experiences were 
thought of as something to be obtained at all costs. Among some 
noted but deceptive visionaries of the time was the stigmatic, 
Maria de Santo Domingo (1486-1524), known as the Beata of 
Piedrahita. Her monastery became a center of spirituality and 
high prayer; she herself wrote a book on prayer and contempla- 
tion. But soon the Master General of the Dominicans had to 
isolate her because of certain aberrations and prophetic revela- 
tions. No one in the order, with the exception of her confessor, 
was allowed to converse with her or administer the sacraments 
to her; nor was anyone allowed to speak about her prophecies, 
ecstasies, and raptures, except to the provincial. 

Another visionary, Magdalena de la Cruz, a Poor Clare with 
a reputation for holiness, severe fasts, and long vigils, also bearing 
the stigmata, let it be known that she no longer required any 
food except the consecrated Host in daily Communion. In an 
investigation by the Inquisition she confessed to being a secret 
devil worshiper. Inspired by two incubuses with whom she had 
made a pact, she became very skillful at all sorts of legerdemain. 
Through her success in fooling both bishops and kings, she 
brought the fear of being deceived to all of Spain. 

Turning its attention understandably to the activities of the 
alumbrados , the Inquisition condemned, in 1525, forty-eight il- 
luminist propositions. That same year a decree was promulgated 
against the heresies of Luther, for the Inquisition suspected that 
Lutheranism and Illuminism were closely connected in that both 
movements emphasized internal religion at the expense of out- 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


ward ceremonial. Anyone suspected of illuminist practices was 
quickly taken into custody, the net having been thrown wide 
enough to ensnare even St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was forbid- 
den to preach for three years. Followers of Erasmus as well fell 
into disfavor. 

The driving force behind the revolt of the Comuneros had been 
hatred of the foreigner and of foreign ways and ideas. Although 
the Comuneros were defeated, naturally enough the many ideas 
that inspired them lived on, defended and upheld by the more 
conservative members of the religious orders. If the friars who 
ran the Inquisition bridled at alien briefs, they also acted under 
the impulse of fear, a fear that in a land where heterodox views 
abounded new heresies might easily take root. The result was 
a tendency to generate a climate of mistrust and mutual suspi- 
cion, one peculiarly propitious for the informer and the spy — 
victims never being informed of their accusers, and accusers often 
finding an ideal opportunity for the settlement of old scores. 
Authors even of non-theological works tended just the same to 
exercise a kind of self-censorship, if only to keep their writings 
free of anything capable of misleading the ignorant and the 

There is no reason to assume, on the other hand, that the In- 
quisition was the sole source of constraint. Suspicion of those 
who deviated from the common norm was deeply rooted in 
sixteenth-century Spain, even though deviation was more nor- 
mal there than elsewhere. People could be suspect because of 
their race just as well as because of their faith. In addition to 
all the concern about purity of faith there was an inordinate con- 
cern about purity of blood. 

Another prevalent fear in the society of Teresa's time was fear 
of the devil. From the fourteenth century the attention of Chris- 
tians turned more and more to the devil and his powers, and 
fear of his forces and wiles loomed large. The measured terms 
and prudent skepticism with which St. Thomas Aquinas in the 
thirteenth century had dealt with the subject of diabolical temp- 
tations and marvels had been too readily ignored. The idea 
gradually grew more widespread that woman, the daughter of 
Eve, could serve as Satan's intermediary in order the more easily 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to tempt man and draw him to evil. The diabolical powers that 
astounded the masses made the Inquisitors feel that they were 
at grips with supernatural powers. 

If we keep all of this in mind, it is not difficult for us to under- 
stand why the times were weighed down by distrust of mental 
prayer, especially that practiced by women (nuns, beatas, or 
"foolish women"), by suspicion of spiritual books that fostered 
the practice, and by an open hostility toward mystical manifesta- 
tions, symptoms of a certain morbid religiosity or of Illuminism. 
It is not a wonder that there was skepticism and caution among 
Teresa's directors over her unusual experiences. Nor a wonder 
that Teresa herself, though she experienced certitude during the 
actual moments when she received these favors, began to feel 
doubts and fears that she might be a victim of diabolical decep- 
tion. She herself testifies: "since at that time other women had 
fallen into serious illusions and deceptions caused by the devil, 
I began to be afraid. I experienced wonderful delight and 
sweetness . . . and in addition I was aware of the greatest assurance 
that this delight was from God, especially when I was in 
prayer . . . But after a little distraction I began to fear and wonder 
whether the devil, making me think the experience was good, 
wanted me to suspend the intellect . . . this fear increased in such 
a way that it made me diligently seek out spiritual persons to 
consult" (ch. 23, 2). Some zealous individuals went so far as to 
warn her confessor to be careful of her. "I feared that I would 
have no one who would hear my confession, but that all would 
run from me" (ch. 28, 14). 

Teresa came to realize in the midst of these suspicions that 
the safest course of action was to hide nothing from her con- 
fessor, to lay open before him the whole state of her soul and 
tell simply and humbly about the favors she received. She also 
came to the conclusion that the confessor should be learned and 
that she should obey. Not without some perplexity, she 
discovered, in turn, that when she obeyed her confessor's direc- 
tion to resist the favors, they only increased (ch. 29, 7). Through 
her experience Teresa also acquired the ability to discern when 
a passive experience was not the result of the workings of God's 
grace. "I have so much experience now of when something is 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


from the devil that since he at present sees that I understand 
him, he doesn't torment me in this way as often as he used to. 
He is recognized clearly by the disturbance and disquiet with 
which he begins, by the agitation the soul feels as long as his 
work lasts, by the darkness and affliction he places in the soul, 
and by dryness and the disinclination toward prayer or toward 
any good work" (ch. 30, 9). 

If people can be misled and deceived by desires for God's favors 
in prayer, these favors in themselves are not to be disparaged, 
being, as they were for Teresa, a source of fortitude and 
strengthening in faith. The foretaste of heavenly things left her 
with feelings of detachment she could hardly believe after hav- 
ing had so much experience with her own futile efforts, and it 
prepared her for her mission. "By these gifts, the Lord gives us 
the fortitude that by our sins we are losing. If people don't have, 
along with a living faith, some pledge of the love God has for 
them, they will not desire to be despised and belittled by everyone 
and have all the other great virtues that the perfect possess. For 
our nature is so dead that we go after what we see in the pre- 
sent. Thus these very favors are what awaken faith and strengthen 
it" (ch. 10, 6). 

Though Teresa feared greatly that she might by deceived by 
her experiences, go astray, and lose her Lord, the Inquisition 
was not the type of thing that could frighten her. When others 
approached and cautioned her with such fears, she writes: "This 
amused me and made me laugh . . . And I said they shouldn't 
be afraid about these possible accusations; that it would be pretty 
bad for my soul if there were something in it of the sort that 
I should have to fear the Inquisition; that I thought if I did have 
something to fear I'd go myself to seek out the Inquisitors" (ch. 
33, 5). What was considered the most ignominious thing that 
could happen to a person at that time, Teresa saw as a fortuitous 
opportunity to submit her spirit totally to the judgment of the 
Church. Any disgrace involved she did not look upon as a cause 
for shrinking in terror but as a chance to grow in love for her 
Lord. Though subsequently accused at different times before 
the Inquisition, she was never found guilty. 

In general it can be said that where there was exaggeration, 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Teresa in her time was a sign of contradiction; where there were 
aspects of truth, she was a reconciler. Stressing throughout her 
life the absolute necessity of prayer and the interior life, her path 
was that of a devotee of Christ. She found it extremely difficult 
to be open to any system of mysticism that would demand set- 
ting aside the corporeal for the sake of mounting to the spiritual. 
Devotion to Christ in His humanity was never for her an obstacle 
to the most perfect contemplation. The obstacle for her was the 
mistaken notion that all thought of Him must be set aside; to 
do this, she stated, would impede "raptures and visions and other 
favors God grants to souls" (ch. 22, 2). She believes that in try- 
ing to rid themselves of any thought of the human Christ so as 
to approach the Divinity many souls do not pass beyond the 
prayer of union. Paintings and images of Christ, these simple 
means, were greatly prized and devoutly venerated by Teresa, 
devotion never being a roadblock for her. But when God desired 
to suspend all the faculties in the higher degrees of prayer — 
yes, then the presence of the humanity of Christ is taken away. 
"Then let it be so — gladly; blessed be such a loss that enables 
us to enjoy more that which it seems is lost" (ch. 22, 9). "When 
one is in the midst of business matters, and in times of persecu- 
tion and trials, when one can't maintain so much quietude, and 
in other times of dryness, Christ is a very good friend because 
we behold Him as man and see Him with weaknesses and 
trials — and He is company for us" (ch. 22, 10). Her spirited 
defence of friendship with and devotion to Him even in higher 
stages of the mystical life did not spring from any special talent 
she had for picturing things with her imagination. "For God didn't 
give me talent for discursive thought or for a profitable use of 
the imagination. In fact, my imagination is so dull that I never 
succeeded even to think about and represent in my mind — as 
hard as I tried — the humanity of the Lord" (ch. 4, 7). Frequently, 
as a result, in speaking of meditation she has in mind a simple 
quiet presence to Christ through one of His earthly mysteries. 
"But one should not always weary oneself in seeking these reflec- 
tions but just remain there in His presence with the intellect quiet. 
And if we are able we should occupy ourselves in looking at Christ 
who is looking at us" (ch. 13, 22). 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


News that the sacred images of Christ and His saints were 
being destroyed in other parts of Christian Europe was a tor- 
ment to her. Even a simple devotional object like holy water left 
her with the imprint of its efficacy. "The power of holy water 
must be great. For me there is a particular and very noticeable 
consolation my soul experiences upon taking it. Without a doubt 
my soul feels ordinarily a refreshment I wouldn't know how to 
explain, like an interior delight that comforts it entirely. . .and 
I rejoice to see the power of those words recited over the water 
so that its difference from unblessed water becomes so great" 
(ch. 31, 4). On the other hand, those devotions popular in her 
day, especially among women, that were downright superstitious, 
she confesses she never cared for (ch. 6, 6). 

The first two persons Teresa consulted about her experiences 
decided after examining her written testimony that her super- 
natural experiences were from the devil. Told not to remain 
alone, she seldom dared to stay in a room by herself during the 
daytime. Once, while terrified that the devil would deceive her, 
agitated and weary and not knowing what to do, she heard the 
Lord speak to her. "I was given calm together with fortitude, 
courage, security, quietude, and light so that in one moment 
I saw my soul become another" (ch. 25, 18). The words of His 
Majesty liberated her from the unnecessary and terrible fears 
of the devil with which society had burdened her. As for devils, 
she could then say with complete freedom: "I pay no more at- 
tention to them than to flies" (ch. 25, 20). The key element of 
her teaching about the devil, then, so psychologically and 
spiritually sound, is the utter uselessness of all fears concerning 
him. "I don't understand these fears, 'The devil! The devil!', when 
we can say 'God! God!', and make the devil tremble" (ch. 25, 
22). With disapproving words she concludes this little section: 
"I fear those who have such great fear of the devil more than 
I do the devil himself, for he can't do anything to me. Whereas 
these others, especially if they are confessors, cause severe distur- 
bance" (ch. 25, 22). 

A deep division slowly developed in Spain between those per- 
sons Teresa refers to as learned men (theologians or intellectuals) 
and spiritual men (those with experience in prayer, who 


St. Teresa of Avila 

nowadays might be referred to as mystics or charismatics). The 
men of learning often scorned quietism, distrusted prayer, and 
spoke deprecatingly of the mystical life, especially when promoted 
among women. They denounced to the Inquisition books deal- 
ing with all such matters. On the other hand, the spiritual men 
often looked down on theologians as professionals in the letter 
of the law but lacking in the spirit; they grimaced at any men- 
tion of the competence of these men in spiritual matters and 
declared them to be inept in the business of guiding souls. 

The intellectualist tendency, spearheaded by the schools of 
Salamanca and by Dominican theologians, was definitively 
assumed and imposed as the norm of the Inquisition. Two of 
the more notorious among the theologians were the formidable 
Dominican, Melchior Cano, and the Archbishop of Seville and 
Supreme Inquisitor, Fernando Valdes. Cano taught that the 
practice of mental prayer was a danger not only for the Church 
but for the Christian republic as well. Rather incredibly for so 
illustrious a theologian, he reasoned that since it is impossible 
to devote oneself to both the active and the contemplative life, 
colleges and universities would have to be suppressed, books 
closed, and studies annihilated if all were to dedicate themselves 
to prayer. As for the assertion that the practice of prayer serves 
for the acquisition of virtue more than any other practice does, 
he complained that it was ridiculous. 

In 1559, Fernando Valdes published an index of forbidden 
books among which were included almost all books dealing with 
prayer; cherished spiritual books by the most renowned contem- 
porary Spanish authors as well as translations from classic writers: 
St. Francis Borgia, St. John of Avila, Luis of Granada, Osuna, 
Tauler, Harphius, and Denis the Carthusian. Many of Teresa's 

The prohibition of Francis Borgia's Obras del Cristiano, it is in- 
teresting paranthetically to note, is perhaps more easily explained 
in view of the anti-Jesuit sentiments prevalent in the Spanish 
Church in the sixteenth century. Never one to make facile con- 
demnations, Teresa, despite what others thought, felt high esteem 
for the Fathers of the Society, and she consulted Father Francis 
personally, finding him to be a wonderful help because, as she 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


says, he was a man of experience, one who "was advancing in 
the favors and gifts of God" (ch. 24, 3). In her judgment the 
Jesuits were spiritual men, men of prayer and experience: "I see 
that what happened was all for my greater good, that I might 
get to know and deal with people as holy as are those of the Socie- 
ty of Jesus" (ch. 23, 3,9,15). 

Despite the Inquisition and Melchior Cano and the index, 
this Carmelite nun had little doubt about the central place prayer 
must take. She views prayer as the source of the good things 
God worked in her. Turning away from prayer would be the 
equivalent of shutting the door on God who longs to share His 
life intimately with us. So her tribute to a spiritual and experi- 
enced man like St. Peter of Alcantara is glowing. And she agrees 
also with him that there are many more women than men to 
whom God grants His favors (ch. 40, 8). 

Experience in prayer and prudence, she taught, were the more 
necessary qualifications in the spiritual direction of beginners. 
"I say that if these learned men do not practice prayer their learn- 
ing is of little help to beginners" (ch. 13, 16). On the other hand, 
she cautioned that anyone experiencing favors, women especially, 
should consult learned men. "Let not the spiritual person," she 
wisely warns and reasons, "be misled by saying that learned men 
without prayer are unsuitable for those who practice it. . . . For 
though some don't have experience, they don't despise the Spirit 
nor do they ignore it, because in Sacred Scripture, which they 
study, they always find the truth of the good spirit" (ch. 13, 18). 
Learning was of particular value, then, in the cases of those who 
had begun to experience God's favors. The learned man could 
discern if one were walking in conformity with the truths taught 
in Scripture. But expertise in Scripture studies doesn't make up 
for experience and humility; so there may be much that is baf- 
fling to the learned man. He may prove somewhat obtuse in 
puzzling over the infused loving experience that the psychologist 
William James, exploring the varieties of religious experience, 
apologetically but not without sarcasm refers to as an amatory 
flirtation between the devotee and the deity. But Teresa's source 
of wisdom was her Lord, and she has some motherly-sounding 
advice for the learned man in his quandary: "As for the rest he 


St. Teresa of Avila 

shouldn't kill himself or think he understands what he doesn't . . . 
Let him not be surprised . . . that the Lord makes a little old 
woman wiser, perhaps, in this science than he is, even though 
he is a very learned man" (ch. 34, 11, 12). 

Teresa could not be content that men of learning be simply 
men of learning. She suffered too keenly because she had no 
one to consult who had experience of the spiritual path she was 
being drawn along (ch. 28, 18). Deficient in experience, those 
she consulted frequently disturbed and afflicted her (ch. 40, 8). 
It was Friar Peter of Alcantara, austere and saintly, who ultimate- 
ly understood her and, through his own experience, was able 
to explain things, comfort, and encourage her. 

With her ideal that men of learning be also men of experience, 
or spiritual men, Teresa managed to win the illustrious 
Dominican theologians Garcia de Toledo and Pedro Ibafiez to 
the path of prayer. Through her charming influence, dedicating 
themselves earnestly to this newly discovered way, they soon 
themselves began to experience God's favors. Contrary to the 
prosaic teaching of some scholars of the time that many years 
of arduous asceticism were required before there could be any 
passivity in the spiritual life, the Lord, Teresa taught, follows 
no fixed time schedules. Often "the contemplation the Lord 
doesn't give to one in twenty years He gives to another in one" 
(ch. 34, 11). Instances of this fact she observed, too, in the young 
Sisters entering the newly established monastery of St. Joseph 
(ch. 39, 10). Of Pedro Ibafiez, "the most learned man" in Avila, 
she writes: "I told him then as clearly as I could about all the 
visions and my manner of prayer and the great favors the Lord 
granted me. I begged him to consider my prayer very carefully 
and tell me if there was something opposed to Sacred Scripture 
and what he felt about it all. . . . For although he was very good, 
from then on he dedicated himself much more to prayer and 
withdrew to a monastery of his order where there was much 
solitude so that he could practice prayer better" (ch. 33, 5). When 
she saw him again and heard of his happiness for having done 
what intensified his life of prayer, she was the recipient of some 
of its benefits: "And I, too, was able to agree because previous- 
ly he assured me and consoled me only by his learning, but now 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


he did so also through his spiritual experiences" (ch. 33, 6). In 
chapter thirty-four she tells of how, when she considered the strik- 
ing talents and gifts of Garcia de Toledo, she felt an uncon- 
trollable longing that he give himself entirely to God and of how 
this prayer was answered and God began to favor him. 

Worth recalling is that in the Spain of that time the faithful 
were unable to read Scripture, unless, of course, they had 
knowledge of Latin, since no vernacular edition was permitted. 
Teresa had to turn to other spiritual books, which usually 
abounded with quotations from Scripture. When many spiritual 
books were placed on Valdes's Index, she was beside herself, 
wondering what to do. In the midst of her consternation she 
received a locution from the Lord telling her not to be sad but 
that He would become for her a living book. Subsequently she 
began to receive mystical understanding of many truths His Ma- 
jesty wanted to teach her and, as a result, felt little or almost 
no need for books (ch. 26, 5). Because of her consequent lack 
of spiritual books dealing with prayer, she later wrote her own 
books to explain and give instructions to her new followers about 
the path to union with God. 

Her First Spiritual Directors 

The early group of censors and confessors that played a role 
in Teresa's story was made up of about eight persons. Francisco 
de Salcedo, the first whom she consulted, was a pious layman, 
who had been practicing mental prayer for about forty years and 
had diligently followed the course in theology at the College of 
St. Thomas for twenty years, never, it seems, being able to hear 
enough about the sacred science. It was he who received the first 
account of Teresa's life and sins, the first sketch of her future 
book. Salcedo, bewildered, in turn consulted the ascetical priest, 
Gasper Daza. They were the two who concluded that her ex- 
periences were from the devil, and unrelentingly held to this con- 
clusion for a number of years. 

Following the suggestion of the well-intentioned Salcedo, 
Teresa next consulted the Jesuits. Those she approached at this 
time were young, little more than half her age. Diego de Cetina, 


St. Teresa of Avila 

the first, was twenty-four, and one year a priest. After only a 
couple of months he was transferred and followed by Juan de 
Pradanos, twenty-seven, but also only one year ordained. After 
serving two years as Teresa's confessor, this second was also 
transferred. The third, most noted, was Baltasar Alvarez, twenty- 
five or twenty-six, and one year ordained at the time he con- 
sented to accept the task of directing Teresa. 

Perplexed and wavering in his guidance of this extraordinary 
woman, Alvarez was, nonetheless, heroic in standing by her, 
ever willing and quick to give a boost to her sagging spirits dur- 
ing the crucial years when everything seemed to be going wrong. 
But his own uncertainties lagged on and were slow to dissipate 
completely. Only ten years later, when he began to feel drawn 
himself into the mystical path of prayer, did he win total peace 
about the experiences of Madre Teresa. Once, years later, he 
laconically confided to Ribera, pointing to a large pile of books: 
"All those books I read in order to understand Teresa of Jesus." 

In the group of Dominicans three eminent figures stand out: 
Garcia de Toledo, Pedro Ibariez, and Domingo Bariez. Garcia 
de Toledo, to whom Teresa relates as to a disciple as well as 
to a director and confessor, and whom she calls "my father and 
my son," is addressed directly in the Life as though Teresa were 
writing him a letter. A true aristocrat, being a nephew of the 
Count of Oropesa and cousin of the Viceroy of Peru, it was he, 
most likely, who urged Teresa not to worry about going on at 
too much length or about getting lost in a multiplicity of details. 
He had held various offices within his order, including that of 
provincial of Peru. Having known him from some years before, 
Teresa met him once again in Toledo, an event she speaks of 
enthusiastically in chapter 34. Within a short while, through her 
influence and prayers, he underwent a more complete conver- 
sion to God and began to grasp, by his own deeper experiences, 
a great deal more about spiritual matters. 

Pedro Ibanez was a professor of theology. Little by little Teresa 
opened her soul to him, and he, in turn, was attracted to prayer. 
Her account of his death, a death that took place before she fin- 
ished the second redaction of her book, provides us with a no- 
tion of the kind of person for whom she was writing initially: 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


"His prayer had reached such a degree that at the time of his 
death when he wanted to avoid mental prayer because of his 
great weakness, he couldn't on account of his many raptures. 
He wrote to me a little before he died asking what he should 
do, because when he finished saying Mass he often went into 
rapture without being able to prevent it" (ch. 38, 13). 

Domingo Banez didn't appear on stage until the spring of 1562. 
Highly respected for his powers of mind and his doctrinal authori- 
ty, he had some influence on the definitive redaction of the Life 
and played a part in the later history of the manuscript, giving 
a favorable opinion of it to the Inquisition. 

Two other persons, who were a consolation and great help 
to Teresa, were later canonized by the Church: Francis Borgia, 
the Duke of Gandia, who renounced all and entered the Jesuits; 
and Peter of Alcantara, the Franciscan penitent and reformer. 

A Report in Writing 

At the time Teresa took up her pen to begin The Book of Her 
Life she was approaching fifty and had been experiencing a steady 
flow of mystical grace for close to ten years. She was obliged, 
finally, to report in writing her unusual and sometimes discon- 
certing experiences so as to submit all to the judgment of pro- 
fessionals. She did not at once meet with the best of fortune. 
Neither Salcedo nor Daza were prepared to deal with anything 
of this kind and depth. Fearful about her experiences, as was 
mentioned, they obliged her to go from one counselor to another, 
Jesuit as well as Dominican. These counselors, in turn, asked 
for detailed written information. 

The painful difficulty for Teresa was that, though she could 
give a report in word and writing of her sins, the mystical life 
she was experiencing stubbornly resisted all her attempts to 
describe it. Her final resort was Laredo's Ascent of Mount Sion, 
in which she underlined and marked passages that seemed to 
be telling of something similar to her own experiences. "For a 
long time, even though God favored me, I didn't know what 
words to use to explain His favors: and this was no small trial" 
(ch. 12, 6). To give an adequate explanation of what she was 


St. Teresa of Avila 

experiencing she still needed other graces. "For it is one grace," 
she later discovered, "to receive the Lord's favor; another, to 
understand which favor and grace it is; a third, to know how 
to describe it" (ch. 17, 5). 

Still extant among Teresa's writings are some accounts of her 
spiritual state written before she wrote her Life. These are the 
first two of her Spiritual Testimonies . It was Garcia de Toledo, 
the one most eager, it seems from what she says of him, to know 
all he could about her, who told her to write a more extended 
and detailed report of her whole spiritual life and not just of her 
actual state. 

In the wealthy, somewhat peaceful surroundings of the palace 
of Dona Luisa de la Cerda, where she had been staying, at this 
noble lady's request and by order of her provincial, Teresa set 
her mind to the task of putting her work into paragraphs or 
chapters, she presented the finished product to Fr. Garcia in 
June, 1562, before returning to Avila. The manuscript read more 
like a long letter, in which she frequently addressed the person 
for whom she wrote, carried on a dialogue with him, made ap- 
peals to his theological competence, and so on. 

Unfortunately, the first draft of her Life has been lost. The 
learned Dominican priest did however read that composition, 
making some observations about certain phrases that seemed 
too strongly worded. He most probably shared the manuscript 
with some who were close friends, such as Ibariez, and then 
returned it to its author with the request, again with his 
customary eagerness for further details, that she not only 
transcribe it but add an additional section on the foundation of 
St. Joseph's in Avila. This request, which Teresa ascribes to her 
confessors, reached her at the end of 1563, when she had been 
given verbal permission to reside in her new foundation — or 
perhaps later, after the year 1564 had begun. The second draft 
must have been written somewhat quickly amid the tranquil con- 
templative life of religious observance that was followed in her 
new monastery, in a cell stark for its poverty, without any com- 
forts, without even a table or chair. 

The revisions she made were not all minor ones. Anxious to 
make matters clear and herself understood, she added eleven 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


new chapters (from chapters 1 1 to 22 inclusive) in which, using 
the allegory of the four ways of watering a garden, she composed 
a complete little treatise on the degrees of prayer. She added, 
as well, the requested account of the foundation of St. Joseph's 
(chapters 32-36), and then tacked on four additional chapters, 
most gratifying we surmise to Fr. Garcia, that tell of other ex- 
traordinary favors she received up until the end of 1565. This 
latter date accounts for the supposition that it was at this time 
she finished the book. 

The Nature of Her Book 

Although usually referred to as such, Teresa's book is not an 
autobiography; nor is it an intimate diary. What she deals with 
mainly are the supernatural (infused or mystical) realities of the 
interior life. Nonetheless, she does make use of autobiographical 
material as a backdrop against which she treats of the existence 
and value of the favors of God. The fragmentary and scattered 
biographical data comprise two levels, one exterior, the other 
interior. The difference between these two levels runs much 
deeper than any met with in everyday autobiographies. The ex- 
terior level deals with the historical facts; it is a personal chroni- 
cle limited in value. The interior level deals almost exclusively 
with the mystical facts, facts that by reason of their quality and 
depth lie beyond the layers of ordinary inner life, beyond the 
purely historical, and beyond the usual ways in which the psyche 
functions. It embraces higher states of consciousness, passive 
perception and love, relations with the transcendent God, in- 
tensification of the life of the spirit. 

The evident preponderance of interior facts does not, however, 
prevent an interweaving of both levels that results in the ingenious 
plan of the book. As for the exterior events of her Life, the first 
part, 1515-1535, consists of twenty years of family life; the next 
twenty-seven years, 1535-1562, comprise her Carmelite life in 
the monastery of the Incarnation; the final period includes three 
years, 1562-1565, of her life at St. Joseph's, those initial years 
in her newly established form of Carmelite life, the expansion 
of which was to become her mission until her death in 1582. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

As for the interior events, her life was by and large of an 
ascetical type until her conversion experience in 1554 (ch. 9, 1,8). 
For the next two years or so she experienced the first inpouring 
of mystical graces: feelings of God's presence, passive recollec- 
tion and quiet, and the first tastes of union (ch. 9, 9; 10, 1). 
About 1557 she received her first locution and rapture (ch. 19, 
9; 25, 5). From the following year until 1560 she had to resist 
persistently, in obedience to her confessor, the locutions and rap- 
tures (ch. 25, 1,15; 27, 2). In June, 1560, she had her first in- 
tellectual vision of the humanity of Christ (ch. 7,2). In January, 
1561, the sacred humanity in its risen form, was represented to 
her in an imaginative vision (ch. 28, 3). For two and a half years, 
1561-1563, she frequently received this favor (ch. 29, 2). This 
other more sublime favor belongs to the state she was in at the 
lime of the writing of her book. It was a period of vehement 
impulses of love, spiritual wounds of love and the transpiercing 
of the soul. "You can't exaggerate or describe the way in which 
God wounds the soul and the extreme pain this wound produces, 
for it causes the soul to forget itself. Yet this pain is so delightful 
that there is no other pleasure in life that gives greater happiness" 
(ch. 29, 10). It feels that the only remedy for this painful sickness 
is death. 

Before adding the final touches to her work, Teresa was raised 
to a still higher form of mystical experience. It is an experience, 
she teaches, that comes much later than all the visions and revela- 
tions she spoke of. The soul is lifted far above itself and brought 
into a vast solitude in which it experiences intense spiritual pain. 
Just as the powerful spiritual joy of union and rapture suspends 
the faculties, so in this form of prayer it is pain that suspends 
them. "Who could give a good explanation of this prayer. . .It 
is what my soul is now always experiencing. Usually when unoc- 
cupied it is placed in the midst of these anxious longings for death; 
and when it sees they are beginning, it fears that it will not die. 
But once in the midst of them, it would desire to spend the re- 
mainder of its life in this suffering, even though the suffering 
is so excessive a person cannot endure it. . . . I sometimes really 
think that if this prayer continues as it does now, the Lord would 
be served if my life came to an end,. . .1 am oblivious of 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


everything in that anxious longing to see God; that desert and 
solitude seem to the soul better than all the companionship of 
the world. If anything could give the soul consolation, it would 
be to speak to someone who had suffered this torment" (ch. 20, 
12-13). This painful spiritual fire never produced the death and 
subsequent vision of God she longed for. But what is worth point- 
ing out is that the definitive work on her Life poured from her 
pen while she was at this particular milestone of her spiritual 
journey. In later works she speaks of a further deepening of her 
union with God, of a more gentle, peaceful fire in which the 
soul feels that it already enjoys the possession of God, although 
not the fruition, in which it goes about so forgetful of self that 
it thinks it has partly lost its being. 

In giving personal testimony of her own experience, Teresa 
proceeds from her particular case to what can be said on a univer- 
sal plane. In addition to a personal testimony, then, we have 
a teaching suitable for all. In giving her testimony she examines 
her conscience and analyzes her spiritual life, making an extraor- 
dinary effort to explain herself, and this truthfully and with 
simplicity. She tells of both sins and favors — "good things and 
bad." With the favors preponderating over the sins the balance 
between these two constitutive elements of her account is broken. 
Although this is partly due to the fact that in her story the mystical 
element did prevail over the ascetical, there is, nonetheless, the 
added factor that the real object of her testimony is the super- 
natural; to witness to the existence and the value of these realities 
of her inner life and to affirm their excellence and importance 
on a universal plane. The resultant intermingling of testimony 
and doctrine is a characteristic of Teresa's method of teaching. 
Never does she attempt to camouflage her ignorance nor does 
she need to. She frankly admits the problem she has with ex- 
plaining herself clearly in writing; that she doesn't know the 
precise terminology; that she doesn't know philosophy and 
theology. Nor does she even have for her use so much as a Bi- 
ble. Irrespective of her lack of means she has certitude, the cer- 
titude of incontestable experience. "I know through experience 
that what I say is true" (ch. 27, 11). A certitude that would not 
cower before renowned theologians. "The mystery of the Blessed 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Trinity and other sublime things are so explained that there is 
no theologian with whom it [the soul] would not dispute in favor 
of the truth of these grandeurs" (ch. 27, 9). 

Not all possess the charism to speak of the unutterable mystical 
experience, the grace of speech as Thomas Aquinas calls it (S. 
Th. 2-2, q. 1 77 , a. 1-2). The Lord gave her his gift only after 
she had experienced years of stammering and powerlessness. By 
God's gift not only were her spoken words imbued with unction 
but her written ones were as well. Those who knew her testified 
that reading her words was like hearing her talk; the effect was 
the same, her manner of writing being the equivalent of her way 
of conversing. She herself was definitely aware of the divine 
source from which some of the pages flowed. "Many of the things 
I write about here do not come from my own head, but my 
heavenly Master tells them to me" (ch. 39, 8). She cherished 
her spiritual books and doesn't deny the debt contracted from 
some of them. But, though she thought she was understanding 
something of what she read in them, she later realized "that if 
the Lord didn't show me, I was able to learn little from books, 
because there was nothing I understood until His Majesty gave 
me understanding through experience" (ch. 22, 3). Often in set- 
ting about to describe a particular mystical state she begins to 
experience the very prayer she wants to describe. "I believe that 
on account of the humility your Reverence has shown in desir- 
ing to be helped by as simple-minded a person as myself, the 
Lord today after Communion granted me this prayer; and in- 
terrupting my thanksgiving, He put before me these com- 
parisons, taught me the manner of explaining it, and what the 
soul must do here" (ch. 16, 2). Sometimes the force of the in- 
fused love welling up within her leaves a striking mark on what 
she writes. "Since while I write this I am not freed from such 
holy, heavenly madness coming from Your goodness and 
mercy — for You grant this favor without any merits on my part 
at all — either desire, my King, I beseech You, that all to whom 
I speak become mad from Your love, or do not permit that I 
speak to anyone!" (ch. 16, 4). She longs to attract souls to the 
practice of prayer and encourages them to persevere: longs that 
others be afflicted with her madness, and sick with her sickness 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


(ch. 19, 4; 16, 6). 

Where did Teresa discover her message? In the story of her 
own life. There she found the lessons she must write about, the 
practical doctrine she thought could be helpful to all who might 
read her work. Unconcerned about abstract notions, concep- 
tualizations, systems of thought, or articulated outlines, she 
preferred to tell her story and teach her doctrine without any 
literary artifices or aids. 

The Plan of Her Book 

Teresa's book, resembling a long letter, contained no pauses, 
divisions, intermediate titles, or any initial title. When she tried 
to divide the work into chapters and add chapter headings she 
met with unsurprising difficulty. According to the custom of the 
times each heading had to be a summary of the material cover- 
ing the ten or twelve folios the chapter comprised, obliging her 
to figure out the common denominators, central themes, and 
bookish formulas that her digressions and letter-writing tone 
would allow. She rarely succeeded, but limited herself to sug- 
gesting the general idea of what was being discussed, and then 
often adding, with engaging simplicity, a few words of praise 
for what is written, or an ingenuous exhortation to read and allow 
oneself to be convinced. 

With all this in mind, one supposes that the final result would 
have to be a jumble of themes, held only loosly together by the 
thread of her personal story. The supposition proves false. Amaz- 
ingly enough, the structural plan results in a remarkable unity, 
developed with sharp, impeccable logic, and articulated in four 
sections expertly joined and almost equal in length. By combining 
the basic outline with a summary of the contents the following 
guide can be constructed. 

1 . She starts off by telling how from a very early age she began 
to receive God's abundant grace. She was introduced to the path 
of prayer and, in her early twenties, even led to some initial ex- 
perience in mystical prayer. Though she repeatedly frustrated 
God's work, even to the point of abandoning prayer and the in- 
terior life, His mercy was finally victorious over her own sorry 


St. Teresa of Avila 

state. When, in the end, she surrendered more totally to His 
grace, God began His admirable and more immediate work 
within her soul (chaps. 1-10). 

2. So wonderful was this work that she finds it necessary, in 
order that it be understood, to present a detailed exposition of 
prayer, its nature, degrees, and effects. She goes about this task 
with the help of an allegory, that of four different ways of watering 
a garden: using buckets of water drawn from a well, the equal 
of meditation; using a bucket-type water wheel that has to be 
turned by hand, the equivalent of the prayer of recollection and 
quiet; diverting a stream along irrigation ditches, equal to the 
prayer of the sleep of the faculties; and allowing the garden to 
be watered with rain from heaven, the equivalent of the prayer 
of union (chaps. 11-22). 

3. From the detailed exposition of these forms of prayer the 
reader understands more easily how the latter ways of watering 
were accomplished in the soul of Teresa; how the Lord purified 
her, flooded her with grace, allowed her to perceive His divine 
presence, hear His voice, penetrate the mysterious abyss of His 
trinitarian life, and come into contact with the most varied 
realities of the supernatural world. Throughout the pages of her 
book a steady series of rare and wonderful things is set before 
our minds: ecstasies, visions, locutions from God, transpierc- 
ing of the soul, infused love of the purest and strongest kind, 
new wisdom, the flowering of sturdy virtues, premonitions of 
a probable death of love, and foretastes of beatific life (chaps. 

4. A practical result of this outpouring of divine grace is the 
fruitfulness of her life of service. She observes that in the earlier 
period of her spiritual life only three persons, in the course of 
many years, profited from what she said to them. Later when 
she had been strengthened through God's favors, many profited 
within two or three years (ch. 13, 9). In Carmel itself, through 
the foundation of St. Joseph's she inaugurated a new, more con- 
templative lifestyle that stressed divine intimacy and was to spread 
throughout the entire world, serving as yeast, reminding all that 
if they seek resolutely through prayer the things that are above, 
they will soon enjoy the possession of perfect love, a blessing 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


more precious than any earthly thing (ch. 11, 1-2). 

She begins, furthermore, to live with surprising intensity the 
mystery of the communion of saints. She deals on familiar terms 
with the saints in heaven. Her prayer bears special efficacy for 
those in purgatory as well as for those on earth; it also gives her 
dominion over demons (chaps. 32-40). 

The basic structure of the book, then, consists of four parts: 

1) Sins, graces, and vocation 10 chapters 

2) Treatise on the degrees of prayer 12 chapters 

3) Mystical life 9 chapters 

4) Effects 9 chapters 

Main Ideas 

Teresa in a letter once called this work of hers the Book of God's 
Mercies. The infinite divine mercy, persistent and inexhaustible 
alonside our shoddy lives, provides the underlying doctrinal sup- 
port of her Life. Convinced of her own misery, she is convinced 
too that the story of her life can serve as a dark backdrop for 
the glorious contrasting light of His Majesty's mercy. And what 
mercy; reckless and prodigal and lavish, without any seeming 
limits to the favors He bestowed. 

Her doctrinal thesis rises out of her personal story. The mer- 
cy of God reaching out to the misery of humans is not an excep- 
tion but a law. Mercy and munificence pervade the divine at- 
titude, reaching out toward every soul. She is certain that 
everyone is called to the summit of the mountain where only 
the glory of God dwells, that God is keeping watch, waiting for 
the hour to give. Teresa, or the reader, can put off the hour; 
yet if and when it arrives, early or late (her early childhood or 
her late conversion), God will not fail to act with a generous 
mercy substantially identical with that referred to in the book. 
"Oh, what a good friend You make, my Lord! How you pro- 
ceed by favoring and enduring. You wait for others to adapt 
to Your nature, and in the meanwhile You put up with theirs!" 
(ch. 8, 6). It is in this sense that Teresa's case is a typical one. 

For the hour to arrive, an unavoidable condition is required: 
total surrender to God. "Let Your will be done in me in every 


St. Teresa of Aviia 

way, and may it not please Your Majesty that something as 
precious as Your love be given to anyone who serves You only 
for the sake of consolations" (ch. 11, 12). In addition, sounding 
like a wiry old Zen master, she insists again and again on deter- 
mination. The determination must be joined to the surrender, 
determination to follow Christ in this way even though the 
dryness may last for one's whole life (ch. 11, 10). His Majesty 
wants this determination, and He is a friend of courageous souls 
(ch. 13, 1-3). Courage and determination, on the other hand, 
do not go without recompense. "But I have seen clearly that God 
does not leave one, even in this life, without a large reward" (ch. 
11, 11). 

Individuals then, must undergo a change in the recesses of 
their being before they can perceive and follow the delicate urg- 
ings of the Spirit, become somewhat like those newly-discovered 
precision instruments capable of the subtlest forms of reception 
and transmission. This requires the time and the effort. "The 
most we have to strive for in the beginning is to care for oneself 
alone and consider that there is nothing on earth but God and 
oneself (ch. 13, 9). 

This brings us to the central theme of her book: mental prayer, 
which she conceived of as "an intimate sharing between 
friends . . . taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we 
know loves us" (ch. 8, 5). This concept of prayer as a relation- 
ship between friends who know they love each other and need 
to be alone in order to share intimately their deepest feelings 
and thoughts is the simple and strikingly human Teresian 
characteristic of the path to perfection. Teresa as a young girl 
and later as a young religious felt powerfully drawn to human 
friendship. She was highly talented in the art of conversation. 
But she experienced as well that so much of her conversation, 
weighty or frivolous, was enervating to the life of the Spirit. "For 
more than eighteen of the twenty-eight years since 1 began 
prayer, I suffered this battle and conflict between friendship with 
God and friendship with the world" (ch. 8, 3). Feeling powerless 
in her struggle (for it is necessary that "we see by experience 
our own worthlessness so that what happened to Lucifer will not 
happen to us" [ch. 11, 11]), she one day, while praying in solitude 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


to her God for light about some friendships to which she was 
attached, experienced her first rapture in which she heard the 
words: "No longer do I want you to converse with men but with 
angels." The words were efficacious. "I have never again been 
able to tie myself to any friendship or to find consolation in or 
bear particular love for any other persons than those I under- 
stand love Him and strive to serve Him" (ch. 24, 5-6). Her 
unusual capacity for friendship was lifted up and transformed. 
Prayer is an actuation of the theological virtues; charity is friend- 
ship of human beings with God. The friendship is intensified 
through the growth simultaneously of charity and prayer, a 
growth coinciding with the four ways of watering the garden, 
the four degrees of prayer, or ways of receiving the inflow of 

The dimensions of this development can be grasped by ob- 
serving the first and last degree. At the outset the prayer begins 
with an ascetical effort at personal communion with God, either 
by means of the tedious and often dry exercise of discursive 
meditation or by patient repetition of vocal prayer — in both cases 
always making the effort to keep Christ present. These initial 
efforts reach their culmination in the higher mystical graces, with 
locutions, visions, and union, when the divine Friend removes 
some of the veils and reveals His presence. 

With the support of these graces, she is ready to discuss another 
important topic: the sanctifying power of the mystical favors. 
While writing her Life she is undergoing herself a transfigura- 
tion in the depths of her being. Still not clearly aware of what 
the outcome will hold, she knows with strong conviction that 
this kind of grace bears with it an incomparable efficacy. Human 
efforts of the other kind, even though intense and forceful, lie 
on a more superficial plane, remaining weaker in their effect. 
Long years of painful efforts and tenacious struggle do not reach 
into the deep caverns of energy and power as does a brief ex- 
perience of these supernatural graces. In speaking of mystical 
understanding she concludes: ". . .one of these favors is enough 
to change a soul completely" (ch. 27, 9). 

Her mission is the mystical life. She protests against those who 
belittle its graces or, on the other hand, those who think these 


St. Teresa of Avila 

graces can be evoked through subtle techniques, that the toad 
can fly of itself whenever it wants (ch. 23, 13). No. In regard 
to the mystical graces one's whole task consists in accepting the 
cross of dryness with courage and humility and the freedom of 
spirit that comes with detachment from consolation; it consists 
in persevering prayer so as to open to receive what God gives: 
first the little spark, which in turn will enkindle the large fire. 
"I say only that prayer is the door to favors as great as those 
He granted me. If this door is closed, I don't know how He will 
grant them" (ch. 8, 9). And so she goes on — underscoring her 
basic message, that the favors of the mystical life have an in- 
comparable value. "Let us not cease to believe that even in this 
life God gives the hundredfold" (ch. 22, 15). 

History of the Autograph 

Though the Life was written for her confessors, Teresa wasn't 
completely content with the approval they gave of her spirit. 
There was still another whose opinion she couldn't rest without; 
that was St. John of Avila, the apostle of Andalusia, then con- 
sidered the most qualified person in Spain to judge spiritual mat- 
ters. In 1568, after no little difficulty, Teresa was able to get 
the manuscript delivered to him. After studying it, he returned 
it to its author with a letter of approbation and praise dated 
September 12, 1568. 

In 1570 she brought her account with her to Salamanca and 
let some of her confessors there read it: two Jesuits, Martm 
Gutierrez and Jeronimo Ripalda, and two Dominicans, Bar- 
tolome de Medina (who at one time had been highly critical of 
Teresa but later changed into one of her strong supporters) and 
Pedro de Herrero. As word spread concerning the secret 
manuscript, Teresa was urged by certain persons from whom 
she had received many favors to allow some copies to be made — 
by the Duchess of Alba and the Bishop of Avila, for example. 

When the capricious and wealthy princess of Eboli, through 
whose benefactions Teresa was able to found two Carmels at 
Pastrana, heard news of the secret work, she insisted so em- 
phatically on reading it that Teresa was forced to yield. The 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


princess made no effort to keep the manuscript out of the hands 
of the servants, and soon this intimate, deeply spiritual account 
became a subject of gossip and ridicule throughout the entire 
household by people who were completely out of their depth. 
After her husband's death the domineering princess, with much 
fanfare, expressed her grief by entering the Carmel of Pastrana 
to become a nun. She caused so much disturbance to the quiet 
contemplative life of the community that the nuns had to aban- 
don the monastery there for Segovia. This was a blow to the 
princess's self-love. She settled the score by denouncing Teresa's 
Life to the Inquisition as the work of a heretical, illuminist nun, 
and as being all about visions, revelations and dangerous doc- 
trines. Without delay the Inquisition began its inquiry. A letter 
was sent on January 2, 1575 to Don Alvaro de Mendoza, Bishop 
of Avila, ordering him to give over the book he had by Teresa 
of Jesus. Fortunately the Inquisition let the manuscript fall into 
good hands. It was Fr. Bahez, one of Teresa's confessors, who 
was appointed censor. His judgment of the book contained a 
matter-of-fact statement of approval: "Although this woman. . . is 
mistaken in some matters, at least she does not intend to lead 
others into error, for she speaks so frankly of good and bad, and 
with such desire to be correct in what she says, that one cannot 
doubt her good intention." 

The autograph, however, was not returned but kept in the 
secret archives until 1588, after Teresa's death. At this time, 
Mother Ana de Jesus, then prioress of Madrid — one of Teresa's 
most noted and talented daughters, for whom St. John of the 
Cross wrote his commentary on the Spiritual Canticle, and who 
had influential friends at the royal court — managed to obtain 
the manuscript from the Inquisition in view of the printed edi- 
tion of Teresa's works being prepared by the scholarly Augusti- 
nian friar, Luis de Leon. King Philip II later obtained the 
autograph for his own royal library of the Escorial where it is 
still preserved. It was placed beside works of two doctors of the 
Church, St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine, almost as if 
to predict that Teresa herself, even though a woman, would one 
day be declared a doctor of the Church. This she was by Paul 
VI on September 27, 1970. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Teresa's writings have been continuously popular throughout 
the world since the time of their first printing, and have been 
translated into twenty-one languages. With regard to the Life, 
it was the first of the saint's works to attract translators. As ear- 
ly as 1611 an English translation of the Life by a W. M. was 
published in Antwerp. These were the initials of William Malone, 
a Jesuit persecuted and in exile from Ireland. In this century 
the most widely circulated English translation of Teresa's writings 
has been that done by the British scholar and authority on the 
Spanish mystics, E. Allison Peers. His translation was from Fr. 
Silverio's edition. 

A New Translation 

Unlike other Spanish classic authors, Teresa had no training 
as a writer. Her style is thoroughly spontaneous, without the 
slightest trace of artificiality or sophistication. Writing the way 
she talked, she reflects the popular language of the Castilian peo- 
ple of her time: natural, direct, colorful, and incisive. As though 
her thoughts were jostling with each other for position, her 
sentences often become highly involved with parentheses and 
digressions, causing her sometimes to lose the thread — which 
never prevents her from leaping forward quickly and easily to 
a new thought. Within her sentences she bothers little about 
preserving the agreement between the parts of speech required 
for the sake of clarity; she shifts back and forth from singular 
to plural, from first person to third, from past to present, and 
so on. Translating Teresa's sentences is often like working on 
puzzles, and some of the puzzles we can never be completely 
sure that we have solved. But by and large her meaning can be 
determined with certitude from the context. There are, finally, 
numerous instances of cacophony (yayo me temia a mi [ch. 3, 7]); 
or of the use of semitisms (estaba enferma de grandisima enfermedad 
[ch. 5, 2]); of redundant or excessive uses of superlatives (muy 
honesto en gran manera [ch. 1, 1]); or of the use of multiple verbs 
(deje de holgarme de oirlo [ch. 3, 1]). 

In spite of the grammatical or stylistic shortcomings there is 
something about the color, spontaneity, and simplicity of Teresa's 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 


style that makes her a delight to read. There is also a subtle wit 
frequently at work in what she says or in the way she says it. 
It is not an unusual sight to see Spaniards chuckling to themselves 
at the reading of Teresa of Avila in the original. 

Those who had the privilege of observing her write have 
testified that she could do so as rapidly as any public notary, 
that she never paused to think or correct a word, or cross one 
out. She once said herself that she wished she could write with 
both hands so that all the ideas pouring into her head could be 
got on paper. She doesn't punctuate, and the paragraph divi- 
sions are few. 

This is the first volume of a projected new English transla- 
tion of St. Teresa's writings. One of the objectives of the Institute 
of Carmelite Studies in the United States is to provide new 
translations of the classic writings of the Carmelite saints. As 
a result it will be possible for the Institute to keep the works of 
these Carmelites in print in their entirety and always available 
to the American public, updating them when necessary. We are 
also taking full advantage of new findings and of all that recent 
scholarship has contributed to a better understanding of Teresa 
and her writings. 

In this new translation we have striven above all for fidelity 
to Teresa's thought; in addition we have sought to capture 
something of her style, while at the same time rendering her in 
the language we use today. No purpose would have been served, 
however, in aiming after a type of literal fidelity that would even 
translate the shortcomings in Spanish grammar into shortcom- 
ings in English grammar. Compromise was our way out of many 
a difficulty as supposedly it is with most translators. We have 
tried to bring as much clarity and precision to our rendering 
as we could while at the same time preserving something of the 
peculiarities of the Teresian style. 

Although no thorough critical text of Teresa's writings have 
yet been produced, we were fortunate in having for our use the 
edition prepared by Fr. Tomas de la Cruz (Alvarez) of the com- 
plete works of St. Teresa (Burgos: Edit. El Monte Carmelo, 1971). 
His punctuation of the text and ample supply of footnotes were 
an important aid to us in a number of obscure passages. Many 


St. Teresa of Avila 

of our own notes, with his gracious consent, are based on, or 
taken word for word, from those in his Spanish edition. For fur- 
ther accuracy we have made use of the new editions prepared 
by Frs. Efren and Steggink (Madrid: B.A.C., 1967); Fr. Isidoro 
(Madrid: Edit, de Espiritualidad, 1963) and Fr. Enrique Llamas 
(Madrid: Edit, de Espiritualidad, 1971). For a Teresian 
bibliography by English authors or of works translated into 
English see Sebastian Ramge, An Introduction to the Writings of 
St. Teresa (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1963), pp. 124-135. 
For ongoing Teresian bibliography see Archivum Bibliographicum 
Carmelitanum (Rome: Teresianum, 1956-) and also Bibliographia 
Internationalis Spiritualitatis (Rome: Teresianum, 1969-). 

Kieran Kavanaugh 
Carmelite Monastery 
Waverly, New York 

The introductions by Tomas Alvarez in his Spanish edition 
of the works of St. Teresa as well as many pages of research 
gathered by my colleague Otilio Rodriquez were especially 
helpful to me in preparing the introductions for this volume. 
I am grateful to these two Teresian scholars and also to some 
other persons in particular who have labored to make this book 
possible: Adrian J. Cooney for his careful reading of a good por- 
tion of the manuscript and his many valued suggestions about 
the English rendering; Joseph Crawford for his editorial work; 
Sr. Josephine for the index; our typist Jean Mallon; and our 
printer Robert Rowe. Finally, I would like to thank those many 
others who by their constant encouragement helped us to reach 
this first stage of a long and so far to us thoroughly rewarding 

For some important studies of various subjects covered in the 
above introduction concerning the Spain of Teresa's time see 
R. Trevor Davies, The Golden Century of Spain 1501-1621, Harper 
Torchbooks (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1937); J. H. Elliott, 
Imperial Spain 1469-1716, A Mentor Book (New York: The New 
American Library, 1966); Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisi- 
tion (New York: The New American Library, 1965); P. Tom- 
maso della Croce, "Santa Teresa e i movimenti spirituali del suo tern- 

The Book of Her Life — Introduction 5 1 

po," Collana Fiamma Viva, vol. 4 (Rome: Teresianum, 1963), pp. 
9-54; Dictionnaire de Spiritualite \ s.v. "Espagne: VAge dtir, "by Adolfo 
de la M. de Dios; and Ibid., s.v. "I lluminisme, " hy Eulogio de 
la Virgen del Carmen. 



St. Teresa of Avila 

The Flaming Heart 

(Upon the book and picture of the seraphical St. Teresa) 

O thou undaunted daughter of desires! 
By all thy dower of lights and fires; 
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove; 
By all thy lives and deaths of love; 
By thy large draughts of intellectual day, 
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they; 

By all thy brim-filled bowls of fierce desire, 
And by thy last morning's draughts of liquid fire; 

By the full kingdom of that final kiss 
That seized thy parting soul, and sealed thee His; 
By all the heavens thou hast in Him 
(Fair sister of the Seraphim); 
By all of Him we have in Thee; 
Leave nothing of my Self in me. 
Let me so read thy life, that I 
Unto all life of mine may die. 

Richard Crashaw, d. 1649 



1 . Since my confessors commanded me and gave me plenty 
of leeway to write about the favors and the kind of prayer the 
Lord has granted me, I wish they would also have allowed me 
to tell very clearly and minutely about my great sins and wretched 
life. This would be a consolation. But they didn't want me to. 
In fact I was very much restricted in those matters. 1 And so I 
ask, for the love of God, whoever reads this account to bear in 
mind that my life has been so wretched that I have not found 
a saint among those who were converted to God in whom I can 
find comfort. For I note that after the Lord called them, they 
did not turn back and offend Him. As for me, not only did I 
turn back and become worse, but it seems I made a study out 
of resisting the favors His Majesty was granting me. I was like 
someone who sees that she is obliged to serve more, yet 
understands that she can't pay the smallest part of her debt. 

2. May God be blessed forever, He who waited for me so long! 
I beseech Him with all my heart to give me the grace to present 
with complete clarity and truthfulness this account of my life 
which my confessors ordered me to write. And I know, too, that 
even the Lord has for some time wanted me to do this, although 
I have not dared. May this account render Him glory and 
praise. And from now on may my confessors knowing me bet- 
ter through this narration help me in my weakness to give the 
Lord something of the service I owe Him, whom all things praise 
forever. Amen. 


Chapter 1 

Treats of how the Lord began to awaken this soul to virtue in her childhood 
and of how helpful it is in this matter that parents also be virtuous. 

TO HAVE HAD VIRTUOUS and God-fearing parents' 
along with the graces the Lord granted me should have been 
enough for me to have led a good life, if I had not been so 
wretched. My father was fond of reading good books, and thus 
he also had books in Spanish for his children to read. These good 
books together with the care my mother took to have us pray 
and be devoted to our Lady and to some of the saints began 
to awaken me when, I think, six or seven years old, to the prac 
tice of virtue. It was a help to me to see that my parents favored 
nothing but virtue. And they themselves possessed many. 

My father was a man very charitable with the poor and com- 
passionate toward the sick, and even toward servants. So great 
was his compassion that nobody was ever able to convince him 
to accept slaves. 2 And his pity for them was such that once hav- 
ing in his home a slave owned by his brother, he treated her 
as though she were one of his children. He used to say that out 
of pity he couldn't bear seeing her held captive. He was very 
honest. No one ever saw him swear or engage in fault-finding. 
He was an upright man. 

2. My mother also had many virtues. And she suffered much 
sickness during her life. She was extremely modest. Although 
very beautiful, she never gave occasion to anyone to think she 
paid any attention to her beauty. For at the time of her death 
at the age of thirty-three, her clothes were already those of a 
much older person. She was gentle and very intelligent. Great 
were the trials she suffered during her life. Her death was a tru- 


The Book of Her Life — Chap. 1 


ly Christian one. 

3. We were in all three sisters and nine brothers. 5 All 
resembled their parents in being virtuous, through the goodness 
of God, with the exception of myself — although I was the most 
loved of my father. And it seemed he was right — before I began 
to offend God. For I am ashamed when I recall the good inclin- 
ations the Lord gave me and how poorly I knew how to profit 
by them. 

4. My brothers and sisters did not in any way hold me back 
from the service of God. I had one brother about my age. 4 We 
used to get together to read the lives of the saints. (He was the 
one I liked most, although I had great love for them all and they 
for me.) When I considered the martyrdoms the saints suffered 
for God, it seemed to me that the price they paid for going to 
enjoy God was very cheap, and I greatly desired to die in the 
same way. I did not want this on account of the love I felt for 
God but to get to enjoy very quickly the wonderful things I read 
there were in heaven. And my brother and I discussed together 
the means we should take to achieve this. We agreed to go off 
to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to 
cut off our heads there. It seemed to me the Lord had given us 
courage at so tender an age, but we couldn't discover any means. 
Having parents seemed to us the greatest obstacle. We were ter- 
rified in what we read about the suffering and the glory that was 
to last forever. We spent a lot of time talking about this and took 
delight in often repeating: forever and ever and ever. As I said 
this over and over, the Lord was pleased to impress upon me 
in childhood the way of truth. 

5. When I saw it was impossible to go where I would be killed 
for God, we made plans to be hermits. And in a garden that 
we had in our house, we tried as we could to make hermitages 
piling up some little stones which afterward would quickly fall 
down again. And so in nothing could we find a remedy for our 
desire. It gives me devotion now to see how God gave me so 
early what I lost through my own fault. 

6. I gave what alms I could, but that was little. I sought out 
solitude to pray my devotions, and they were many, especially 
the rosary, to which my mother was very devoted; and she made 


St. Teresa of Avila 

us devoted to it too. When I played with other girls I enjoyed 
it when we pretended we were nuns in a monastery, and it 
seemed to me that I desired to be one, although not as much 
as I desired the other things I mentioned. 

7. I remember that when my mother died I was twelve years 
old or a little less. 5 When I began to understand what I had 
lost, I went, afflicted, before an image of our Lady and besought 
her with many tears to be my mother. It seems to me that 
although I did this in simplicity it helped me. For I have found 
favor with this sovereign Virgin in everything I have asked of 
her, and in the end she has drawn me to herself. It wearies me 
now to see and think that I was not constant in the good desires 
I had in my childhood. 

8. O my Lord, since it seems You have determined to save 
me, I beseech Your Majesty that it may be so. And since You 
have granted me as many favors as You have, don't You think 
it would be good (not for my gain but for You honor) if the inn 
where You have so continually to dwell were not to get so dirty? 
It wearies me, Lord, even to say this, for I know that the whole 
fault was mine. It doesn't seem to me that there was anything 
more for You to do in order that from this age I would be all 
Yours. If I start to complain about my parents, I am not able 
to do so, for I saw nothing but good in them and solicitude for 
my own good. 

As I grew older, when I began to know of the natural attrac- 
tive qualities the Lord had bestowed on me (which others said 
were many), instead of thanking Him for them, I began to make 
use of them all to offend Him, as I shall now tell. 

Chapter 2 

Treats of how she lost these virtues and of how important it is in childhood 
to associate with virtuous people. 

WHAT I AM GOING TO TELL ABOUT began, it seems 
to me, to do me much harm. I sometimes reflect on the 
great damage parents do by not striving that their children might 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 2 


always see virtuous deeds of every kind. For even though my 
mother, as I said, 1 was so virtuous, I did not, in reaching the 
age of reason, imitate her good qualities; in fact hardly at all. 
And the bad ones did me much harm. She loved books of 
chivalry.-' But this pastime didn't hurt her the way it did me, 
for she did not fail to do her duties; and we used to read them 
together in our free time. Perhaps she did this reading to escape 
thinking of the great trials she had to bear and to busy her 
children with something so that they would not turn to other 
things dangerous to them. Our reading such books was a mat- 
ter that weighed so much upon my father that we had to be cau- 
tioned lest he see us. I began to get the habit of reading these 
books. And by that little fault, which I saw in my mother, I 
started to grow cold in my desires and to fail in everything else. 
I didn't think it was wrong to waste many hours of the day and 
night in such a useless practice, even though hidden from my 
father. I was so completely taken up with this reading that I didn't 
think I could be happy if I didn't have a new book. 

2. I began to dress in finery and to desire to please and look 
pretty, taking great care of my hands and hair and about per- 
fumes and all the empty things in which one can indulge, and 
which were many, for I was very vain. I had no bad intentions 
since I would not have wanted anyone to offend God on my ac- 
count. For many years I took excessive pains about cleanliness 
and other things that did not seem in any way sinful. Now I 
see how wrong it must have been. 

I had some first cousins 5 who often came to our house, 
though my father was very cautious and would not allow others 
to do so; please God he had been inspired to do likewise with 
my cousins. For now I realize what a danger it is at an age when 
one should begin to cultivate the virtues to associate with peo- 
ple who do not know the vanity of the world but rather are just 
getting ready to throw themselves into it. They were about my 
age — a little older than I — and we always went about together. 
They liked me very much, and I engaged in conversations with 
them about all the things that pleased them. I listened to ac- 
counts of their affections and of childish things not the least bit 
edifying; and, what was worse, I exposed my soul to that which 


St. Teresa of Avila 

caused all its harm. 

3. If I should have to give advice, I would tell parents that 
when their children are this age they ought to be very careful 
about whom their children associate with. For here lies the root 
of great evil since our natural bent is toward the worst rather 
than toward the best. 

So it happened to me. For I had a sister 4 much older than 
I whose modesty and goodness (of which she had a great deal) 
I did not imitate at all; and I imitated all that was harmful in 
a relative who spent a lot of time at our house. She was so 
frivolous that my mother tried very hard to keep her from com- 
ing to our home. It seems my mother foresaw the harm that 
would be done to me on account of her, but there were so many 
occasions for her to come to the house that my mother could 
not prevent it. This relative was the one I liked to associate with. 
My talks and conversations were with her, for she encouraged 
me in all the pastimes I desired and even immersed me in them 
by sharing with me her conversations and vanities. Until I began 
to associate with her when I was fourteen, or I think older (I 
mean when she took me for her friend and confidante), I don't 
think I would have abandonded God by a mortal sin or lost the 
fear of God, although the fear of losing my honor was stronger 
in me. This sense of honor gave me the strength not to com- 
pletely lose my reputation. Nor do I think anything in the world 
could have made me change my mind in that regard. Neither 
do I think the love of anyone could have made me give in. Would 
that I had had the fortitude not to do anything against the honor 
of God just as my natural bent gave me fortitude not to lose 
anything of what I thought belonged to the honor of the world. 
And I did not see that I was losing it in many other ways. 

4. I was extreme in my vain desire for my reputation, but 
the means necessary to preserve it I didn't take; although I was 
very circumspect so as not to lose it entirely. 

This friendship pained my father and sister. They often re- 
proached me for it. Since they couldn't do away with the occa- 
sion for her coming to our home, their careful efforts were useless, 
for I was strikingly shrewd when it came to mischief. It frightens 
me sometimes to think of the harm a bad companion can do, 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 2 


and if I hadn't experienced it I wouldn't believe it. Especially 
during adolescence the harm done must be greater. I should like 
parents to learn from my experience to be very watchful in this 
matter. And indeed this conversation so changed me that hard- 
ly any virtue remained to my naturally virtuous soul. And I think 
she and another girl friend of the same type impressed their own 
traits upon me. 

5. From such experience I understand the great profit that 
comes from good companionship. And I am certain that if at 
that age I had gone around with virtuous persons, I would have 
remained whole in virtue. For should I have had when that age 
someone to teach me to fear God, my soul would have gained 
strength not to fall. Afterward, having lost this fear of God com- 
pletely, I only had the fear of losing my reputation, and such 
fear brought me torment in everything I did. With the thought 
that my deeds would not be known, I dared to do many things 
truly against my honor and against God. 

6. These things did me harm, I think, at the beginning, and 
it wasn't her fault but mine. For afterward my malice was suffi- 
cient, together with having the maids around, for in them I found 
a helping hand for every kind of wrong. If there had been one 
of them to give me good counsel, I perhaps would have benefited 
by it; but self-interest blinded them as my vanity did me. I was 
never inclined to great evil — for I naturally abhorred indecent 
things — but to the pastime of pleasant conversation; yet, placed 
in the occasion, the danger was at hand, and my father's and 
brothers' reputation was in jeopardy as well. From all these oc- 
casions and dangers God delivered me in such a way that it seems 
clear He strove, against my will, to keep me from being com- 
pletely lost, although this deliverance could not be achieved so 
secretly as to prevent me from suffering much loss of reputa- 
tion and my father from being without suspicion. For it doesn't 
seem to me that three months, during which I engaged in these 
vanities, had gone by when my father brought me to a convent 
in that place where they educated persons like myself," 1 
although not with habits as bad as mine. This was done so 
cautiously that only I and some relatives knew about it because 
they waited for an opportunity when it would not seem surpris- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

ing for me to go to the convent school; that is, once my sister 
was married" 1 it seemed no longer good for me to stay at home 
without a mother. 

7. So excessive was the love my father bore me and so great 
my dissimulation that he was unable to believe there was much 
wrong with me, and so he was not angered with me. Since this 
period of time had been brief, and though he knew something, 
nothing could be said with certainty. For since I feared so much 
for my honor, I used every effort to keep my actions secret, and 
I never considered that one can never do this with Him who 
sees all things. O my God! What harm is done in the world by 
considering our actions of only little importance and by think- 
ing something can be done against You in secret! I am certain 
that great evils would be avoided if we were to understand that 
the whole matter lies not in our guarding ourselves against men 
but in our guarding ourselves against displeasing You. 

8. The first eight days I felt very unhappy because of my be- 
ing in that convent school, and more than that because of my 
suspicion that they knew about my vanity. For already I was 
wearied and did not fail to have great fear of God when I of- 
fended Him, trying to go to confession at once. Although at the 
beginning I was very unhappy, within eight days — and I think 
even less — I was much more content than when in my father's 
house. All were very pleased with me, for the Lord gave me the 
grace to be pleasing wherever I went, and so I was much loved. 
And although at that time I was strongly against my becoming 
a nun, it made me happy to see such good nuns, for there were 
many good ones in that house, very modest, religious and cir- 
cumspect. Nonetheless, in spite of all, the devil didn't let up 
tempting me, through some outsiders who continued to send me 
messages. But since the opportunities were few, these persons 
stopped sending them. My soul began to return to the good habits 
of early childhood, and I saw the great favor God accords to 
anyone placed with good companions. It seems to me that His 
Majesty was considering and reconsidering in what way He could 
bring me back to Himself. May You be blessed, Lord, who put 
up with me so long! Amen. 

9. One thing, it seems, that could have amounted to some 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 3 


excuse for me, should I not have had so many faults, was that 
the friendship with one of my cousins was in view of a possible 
marriage; and having inquired of my confessor and other per- 
sons about many things, I was told I was doing nothing against 

10. There was a nun 7 there in care of the dormitory for all 
of us who were lay persons. It was by means of her it seems that 
the Lord wished to begin to give me light, as I shall now tell. 

Chapter 3 

Treats of how good companionship played a part in the awakening once 
again of her good desires and how the Lord began to give her some light 
on the mistake she had been making. 

BEGINNING, THEN, TO LIKE the good and holy con- 
versation of this nun, I was glad to hear how well she spoke 
about God, for she was very discreet and saintly. There was no 
time it seems to me when I was not happy to hear about God. 
She began to tell me how she arrived at the decision to become 
a nun solely by reading what the Gospel says: many are the called 
and few the chosen. 1 She told me about the reward the Lord 
grants those who give up all for Him. This good company began 
to help me get rid of the habits that the bad company had caused 
and to turn my mind to the desire for eternal things and for some 
freedom from the antagonism that I felt strongly within myself 
toward becoming a nun. And if I saw someone with the gift of 
tears when she prayed, or other virtues, I greatly envied her. 
For so hard was my heart that I could read the entire Passion 
without shedding a tear. This pained me. 

2. After a year and a half in the convent school I was much 
better. I began to recite many vocal prayers and to seek that 
all commend me to God so that He might show me the state 
in which I was to serve Him. But still I had no desire to be a 
nun, and I asked God not to give me this vocation; although 
I also feared marriage. 

By the end of this period of time in which I stayed there I 


St. Teresa of Avila 

was more favorable to the thought of being a nun, although not 
in that house, for there were things I was afterward to under- 
stand were most virtuous that seemed to me to be too extreme. 
And some of the youngest of the nuns contributed to my think- 
ing this, for if all of them had been of one mind I would have 
greatly profited. Also, I had a good friend in another convent, 2 
and that was the reason why if I were to become a nun I would 
not have done so unless it were in the convent where she was. 
I looked more to pleasing my sensuality and vanity than to what 
was good for my soul. These good thoughts about being a nun 
sometimes came to me, and then would go away; and I could 
not be persuaded to be one. 

3. During this time, although I did not neglect my spiritual 
improvement, the Lord was more determined to prepare me for 
the state that was better for me. He sent me a serious illness 
so that I had to return to my father's house. When I got better, 
they brought me to visit my sister, who lived in a nearby 
hamlet/ for she loved me so deeply that if they had followed 
her wish I would have lived permanently with her. And her hus- 
band also liked me very much — at least he was very solicitous 
for my comfort. But even this I owe to the Lord, for everywhere 
I was always loved; and yet, I always served Him very poorly. 

4. There lived along the way one of my father's brothers, 1 a 
widower, very prudent and virtuous whom the Lord was also 
preparing for Himself. For in his old age he left all that he had 
and became a friar and died, with the result, I believe, that he 
enjoys God. He desired that I stay with him for a few days. He 
spent his time reading good books in the vernacular, and his 
talk was — most often — about God and the vanity of the world. I 
He asked me to read these books to him; and, although I did 
not like them, I pretended to. For in this matter of pleasing others 
I went to extremes, even when it was a burden to me; so much! 
so that what in others would be considered virtuous, in me was| 
a great fault, for I very often acted without discretion. 

Oh, God help me! What means His Majesty was employing 
to prepare me for the state in which He desired to make use of 
me! For without my desiring it, He forced me to overcome my 
repugnance. May He be blessed forever. Amen. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 3 


5. Although the days I remained there were few, because of 
the good company and the strength the words of God — both 
heard and read — gave my heart, I began to understand the truth 
I knew in childhood (the nothingness of all things, the vanity 
of the world, and how it would soon come to an end) 5 and to 
fear that if I were to die I would go to hell. And although my 
will did not completely incline to being a nun, I saw that the 
religious life was the best and safest state, and so little by little 
I decided to force myself to accept it. 

6. I was engaged in this battle within myself for three months, 
forcing myself with this reasoning: that the trials and hardships 
of being a nun could not be greater than those of purgatory and 
that I had really merited hell; that it would not be so great a 
thing while alive to live as though in purgatory; and that after- 
ward I would go directly to heaven, for that was my desire. 

And in this business of choosing a state, it seems to me I was 
moved more by servile fear than by love. The devil was sug- 
gesting that I would not be able to suffer the trials of religious 
life because I was too pampered. I resisted this with the thought 
of the trials Christ suffered and that it would be no great thing 
if I suffered some for Him; and that He would help me to bear 
them — I ought to have had this last thought, I don't remember 
if T did. I suffered very many temptations those days. 

7. At that time I had, together with a high fever, great faint- 
ing spells; for I always had poor health. My fondness for good 
books was my salvation. Reading the Letters of St. Jerome 6 so en- 
couraged me that I decided to tell my father about my decision 
to take the habit, for I was so persistent in points of honor that 
I don't think I would have turned back for anything once I told 
him. So great was his love for me that in no way was I able to 
obtain his permission or achieve anything through persons I asked 
to intercede for me. The most we could get from him was that 
after his death I could do whatever I wanted. I was afraid of 
myself and my frailty and of backing down; and since I could 
not wait so long, I tried to do it by another way, as I shall now tell. 


St. Teresa of A vita 

Chapter 4 

Tells how she was helped by the Lord to force herself to take the habit 
and of the many illnesses His Majesty began to send her. 

IN THOSE DAYS while I was making these decisions, I per- 
suaded one of my brothers to become a friar, 1 telling him 
about the vanity of the world. We both agreed to go one morn- 
ing very early to the convent where that friend of mine was, which 
was the convent I liked very much. 2 For in this final decision 
I was determined to go where I thought I could serve God more, 
or where my father desired. For I was already thinking more 
of a remedy for my soul than of any easy way of life for myself. 

I remember, clearly and truly, that when I left my father's 
house I felt that separation so keenly that the feeling will not 
be greater, I think, when I die. For it seemed that every bone 
in my body was being sundered. Since there was no love of God 
to take away my love for my father and relatives, everything 
so constrained me that if the Lord hadn't helped me, my reflec- 
tions would not have been enough for me to continue on. In 
this situation He gave me such courage against myself that I 
carried out the task. 

2. As soon as I took the habit, 5 the Lord gave me an under- 
standing of how He favors those who use force with themselves 
to serve Him. No one noticed this struggle, but rather they 
thought that I was very pleased. Within an hour, He gave me 
such gieat happiness at being in the religious state of life that 
it never left me up to this day, and God changed the dryness 
my soul experienced into the greatest tenderness. All the things 
of religious life delighted me, and it is true that sometimes while 
sweeping, during the hours I used to spend in self-indulgence 
and self- adornment, I realized that I was free of all that and ex- 
perienced a new joy which amazed me. And I could not under- 
stand where it came from. 

When I recall this, there is no task that could be presented 
to me, no matter how hard, that I would hesitate to undertake. 
For I have already experienced in many ways that if I strive at 
the outset with determination to do it, even in this life His Ma- 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 4 


jesty pays the soul in such ways that only the one who has this 
joy understands it. Yet, since the task is for God alone, He may 
desire that the soul feel this fear before beginning so that it gain 
more merit. And the greater the fear it starts out with, the greater 
and more enjoyable will be the reward afterward. I hold this 
opinion through experience, as I said, with many very difficult 
things. And so I would never counsel anyone — if there were 
someone to whom I should have to give counsel — to fail out of 
fear to put a good inspiration into practice when it repeatedly 
arises. For if one proceeds with detachment for God alone, there 
is no reason to fear that the effort will turn out bad; for God 
has the power to accomplish all. May He be blessed forever, 

3. Enough already, O my supreme Good and Repose, are 
the favors You have bestowed on me in bringing me by Your 
mercy and greatness through so many roundabout ways to so 
secure a state and to a house where there are many servants of 
God I might imitate so as to go on increasing in Your service! 
I don't know how I am going to continue here when I remember 
the kind of profession I made 4 and the great resolve and hap- 
piness with which I made it and the espousal that I entered into 
with You. I cannot speak of this without tears; and were they 
tears of blood and were they to break my heart, the sentiment 
would not make up for the way I offended You afterward. 

It seems to me now I was right in not wanting so great a dignity 
since I was going to make such bad use of it. But You, my Lord, 
desired to be the offended one — for almost twenty years, in which 
1 used this favor badly — so that I might become better. It seems, 
my God, that I did nothing but promise not to keep a thing of 
what I promised You; although that was not then my intention. 
But I see that afterward my deeds were such (for I don't know 
what intention I had) that it may be more clearly seen who You 
are, my Spouse, and who I am. For it is true, certainly, that 
many times the feeling of my great faults is tempered by the hap- 
piness experienced in the thought that the multitude of Your 
mercies may be known. 

4. In whom, Lord, can your mercies shine as they do in me 
who have so darkened with my evil deeds the wonderful favors 


St. Teresa of Avila 

You began to grant me? Woe is me, my Creator, for if I desire 
to make an excuse, I find none! Nor is anyone to be blamed 
but myself. For if I would have paid back something of the love 
You began to show me, I should not have been able to employ 
it in anyone but You; and with that all would have been 
remedied. Since I did not merit this or have such good fortune, 
may Your mercy, Lord, help me now. 

5. The change in food and life-style did injury to my health; 
and although my happiness was great, this was not enough. My 
fainting spells began to increase, and I experienced such heart 
pains that this frightened any who witnessed them; and there 
were many other illnesses all together. And so I passed the first 
year with very poor health, although I don't think I offended 
God much in that year. Since the sickness was so serious that 
I always nearly lost consciousness, and sometimes lost it com- 
pletely, my father was painstaking in looking for a remedy. Since 
the doctors there had none to offer, he sought to bring me to 
a place very famous for the cure of other sicknesses; ' and also 
mine they thought could be cured. This friend I mentioned who 
was in the convent accompanied me, for she was an older per- 
son. 6 In the convent where I was a nun, there was no vow of 

6. I remained in that place almost a year, and for three of 
those months suffering such severe torment from the harsh cures 
they used on me that I don't know how I was able to endure 
them. And, finally, even though I endured them, my bodily 
make-up could not, as I shall tell. 7 The cure was supposed to 
begin at the beginning of the summer, and I went at the begin- 
ning of the winter. During that interval I stayed, waiting for 
the month of April, at my sister's house, which I mentioned, 8 
which was in a hamlet nearby; and I didn't have to be coming 
and going. 

7. When I was on the way, that uncle of mine I mentioned 4 
who lived along the road gave me a book. It is called The Third 
Spiritual Alphabet™ and endeavors to teach the prayer of recollec- 
tion. And although during this first year I read good books (for 
I no longer desired to make use of the others, because I 
understood the harm they did me), I did not know how to pro- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 4 


ceed in prayer or how to be recollected. And so I was very hap- 
py with this book and resolved to follow that path 11 with all my 
strength. Since the Lord had already given me the gift of tears 
and I enjoyed reading, I began to take time out for solitude, 
to confess frequently, and to follow that path, taking the book 
for my master. For during the twenty years after this period of 
which I am speaking, I did not find a master, I mean a con- 
fessor, who understood me, even though I looked for one. This 
hurt me so much that I often turned back and was even com- 
pletely lost, for a master would have helped me flee from the 
occasions of offending God. 

His Majesty began to grant me many favors during these early 
stages. I was almost nine months in this solitude, although not 
so free from offending God as the book told me I should be; 
but I could not be that free, for it seemed to me almost impossi- 
ble to be so on guard. I kept from committing mortal sin and 
begged God to keep me so always. As for venial sins, I paid lit- 
tle attention; and that is what destroyed me. At the end of this 
time that I mentioned there, the Lord, as I was saying, began 
to favor me by means of this path; so much so that He granted 
me the prayer of quiet. And sometimes I arrived at union, 
although I did not understand what the one was or the other, 
or how much they were to be prized — for I believe it would have 
done me great good to have understood this. True, this union 
lasted for so short a time that I do not know if it continued for 
the space of a Hail Mary. But I was left with some effects so 
great that, even though at this time I was no more than twen- 
ty, 12 it seems I trampled the world under foot. And so I pitied 
those who went following after it, even though in permissible 

I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ, our God and 
our Lord, present within me, and that was my way of prayer. 
If I reflected upon some phrase of His Passion, I represented 
Him to myself interiorly. But most of the time I spent reading 
good books, which was my whole recreation. For God didn't give 
me talent for discursive thought or for a profitable use of the 
imagination. In fact, my imagination is so dull that I never suc- 
ceeded even to think about and represent in my mind — as hard 


St. Teresa of Avila 

as I tried — the humanity of the Lord. And although, if one 
perseveres, one reaches contemplation more quickly along this 
way of inability to work discursively with the intellect, this way 
is nonetheless most laborious and painful. For if the will is not 
occupied and love has nothing present with which to be engaged, 
the soul is left as though without support or exercise, and the 
solitude and dryness is very troublesome, and the battle with 
one's thoughts extraordinary. 

8. It is fitting for persons with this tendency to have greater 
purity of conscience than those who can work with the intellect. 
For anyone, who reflects discursively on what the world is, and 
what one owes God, and how much God suffered, and on how 
little one serves Him, and what God gives to anyone who loves 
Him, deduces doctrine to defend oneself from thoughts, occa- 
sions, and dangers. But anyone who cannot benefit from such 
a practice will derive more profit from spending a good deal of 
time in reading; and this is necessary since by oneself one can- 
not get any idea. Discursive reflection is so very arduous for such 
persons that if the master insists that they spend a lot of time 
in prayer without the help of reading, I say that it will be im- 
possible for them to continue for long; and they will do harm 
to their health if they persist, for discursive reflection is an ex- 
tremely difficult thing to practice. Reading is very helpful for 
recollection and serves as a necessary substitute — even though 
little may be read — for anyone who is unable to practice mental 

9. Now it seems to me that it was the Lord's providence that 
I not find anyone to instruct me, for, on account of my being 
unable as I say to reflect discursively, it would have been im- 
possible, I think, to have persevered for the eighteen years I suf- 
fered this trial, and in that great dryness. In all those years, ex- 
cept for the time after Communion, I never dared to begin prayer 
without a book. For my soul was as fearful of being without it 
during prayer as it would have been should it have had to battle 
with a lot of people. With this recourse, which was like a part- 
ner or a shield by which to sustain the blows of my many 
thoughts, I went about consoled. For the dryness was not usually 
felt, but it was always felt when I was without a book. Then 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 4 


my soul was thrown into confusion and my thoughts ran wild. 
With a book I began to collect them, and my soul was drawn 
to recollection. And many times just opening the book was 
enough; at other times I read a little, and at others a great deal, 
according to the favor the Lord granted me. 

It seemed to me at this initial stage I am speaking of that by 
having books and the opportunity for solitude there could have 
been no danger capable of drawing me away from so much good. 
And I think that with God's help it would have been so if I had 
had a master or person who would have counseled me about 
fleeing occasions at the beginning and made me turn away quick- 
ly when coming upon them. And if the devil would have attacked 
me openly at that time, I think I would by no means have re- 
turned to serious sin. But he was so crafty and I so wretched 
that all my resolutions profited me little; although the days in 
which I served the Lord profited me a great deal so that I was 
able to suffer the terrible illnesses I had with the extraordinary 
patience that His Majesty gave me. 

10. I often marvelled to think of the great goodness of God, 
and my soul delighted in seeing His amazing magnificence and 
mercy. May He be blessed by all, for I have seen clearly that 
He does not fail to repay, even in his life, every good desire. 
As miserable and imperfect as my deeds were, this Lord of mine 
improved and perfected them and gave them value, and the evils 
and sins He then hid. His Majesty even permitted that the eyes 
of those who saw these sins be blinded, and He removed these 
sins from their memory. He gilds my faults; the Lord makes 
a virtue shine that He himself places in me — almost forcing me 
to have it. 

11 . I want to return to what they ordered me to write about. 
I say that if I were to have to tell in detail about the way the 
Lord dealt with me in these early stages, an intellect other than 
mine would be necessary to give enough force to the expression 
of what I owe Him for these graces and of my terrible ingratitude 
and wickedness since I forgot about all of them. May He be 
forever blessed who put up with me for so long. Amen. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Chapter 5 

Continues to treat of her great illnesses, of the patience the Lord gave her, 
and of how He draws good out of evil, as is seen in something that hap- 
pened to her in that place where she went for a cure. 

I FORGOT TO TELL HOW in the novitiate year I suffered 
great uneasiness over things that in themselves were of little 
consequence. Often times I was accused about things without 
my being at fault. I bore this with a great deal of pain and im- 
perfection; however, because of the deep happiness I felt in be- 
ing a nun, all passed away. Since they saw me seek out solitude 
and saw me sometimes weep over my sins, they figured this was 
caused by discontent, and said so. 

I was fond of everything about religious life, but I didn't like 
to suffer anything that seemed to be scorn. I enjoyed being 
esteemed. I was meticulous about everything I did. It all seemed 
to me virtue, although this will be no reason for pardon, because 
I knew in everything what seeking rny own happiness was, and 
thus ignorance is no excuse. The only real excuse could be that 
the convent was not founded on a strict observance. I, miserable 
creature that I was, followed after what I saw wrong and left 
aside the good. 

2. There was a nun at that time afflicted with the most serious 
and painful illness, because there were some holes in her ab- 
domen which caused obstructions in such a way that she had 
to eject through them what she ate. She soon died from this. 
I observed that all feared that affliction. As for myself, I envied 
her patience. I asked God that, dealing with me in like man- 
ner, He would give me the illnesses by which He would be served. 
It seemed to me that I feared nothing, for I was so set on gain- 
ing eternal goods that I determined to gain them by any means 
whatever. And I am amazed because I had not yet in my opinion 
any love of God as I did afterward, it seems to me, when I began 
to practice prayer. But I had the light that made everything com- 
ing to an end seem of little value to me, and it made those goods 
that can be gained by the love of God seem of great value since 
they are eternal. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 5 


So well did His Majesty hear my prayer that within two years 
I was so sick that, although this sickness was not the same as 
the nun's, I don't think it was any less painful or laborious dur- 
ing the three year period that it lasted, as I shall now tell. 

3. When the time came for the cure to begin, for I had been 
waiting at ray sister's house, I was brought there 1 with much 
solicitude for my comfort by my father and sister, and my friend, 
the nun,- who had come with me, for she loved me very dear- 
ly. At this point the devil began to upset my soul, although God 
drew out very much good from this. There was a cleric of ex- 
cellent intelligence and social status who lived in that place where 
I went to be cured. He was learned, although not greatly so. 
I began to confess to him, for 1 was always fond of learning. 
Half-learned confessors have done my soul great harm when I 
have been unable to find a confessor with as much learning as 
I like. I have come to see by experience that it is better, if they 
are virtuous and observant of holy customs, that they have lit- 
tle learning. For then they do not trust themselves without ask- 
ing someone who knows, nor do I trust them; and a truly learned 
man has never misguided me. Those others certainly could not 
have wanted to mislead me, but they didn't know any better. 
I thought that they really knew and that I was obliged to no more 
than to believe them, especially since what they told me was 
liberal and permissive. If it had been rigid, I am so wretched 
that I would have sought out others. What was venial sin they 
said was no sin at all, and what was serious mortal sin they said 
was venial. This did me so much harm that it should not sur- 
prise anyone that I speak of it here in order to warn others against 
so great an evil. I see clearly that in God's eyes there is no ex- 
cuse for me, for that the things by their nature were wrong should 
have been enough for me to have been on guard against them. 
It was on account of my sins, I believe, that God permitted these 
confessors to be mistaken themselves and to misguide me. And 
I misled many others by telling them what these confessors told 

I went on in this blindness for I believe more than seventeen 
years until a Dominican Father, a very learned man, 1 
enlightened me about many things. And the Jesuit Fathers made 


St. Teresa of Avila 

me fear everything so much, by showing me how wrong those 
theories were, as I shall tell later. 

4. When I began then to confess with this cleric 4 I men- 
tioned, it happened that he became extremely fond of me; for 
at that time even after I became a nun I had little to confess 
compared to what I had later on. His affection for me was not 
bad; but since it was too great, it came to no good. He had 
learned from me that I was determined not to do anything grave 
against God for any reason, and he also assured me of the same; 
and so we conversed a great deal. But I was so fascinated with 
God at that time that what pleased me most was to speak of the 
things of God. And since I was so young, it threw him into con- 
fusion to observe this; and by reason of the strong love he had 
for me, he began to explain to me about his bad moral state. 
This was no small matter, because for about seven years he had 
been living in a dangerous state on account of his affection and 
dealings with a woman in that same place; and, despite this, 
he was saying Mass. The association was so public that he had 
lost his honor and reputation, and no one dared to admonish 
him about this. To me it was a great pity for I loved him deep- 
ly. I was so frivolous and blind that it seemed to me a virtue 
to be grateful and loyal to anyone who loved me. Damned be 
such loyalty that goes against the law of God! This is the kind 
of nonsense that goes on in the world, which makes no sense 
to me: that we consider it a virtue not to break with a friend- 
ship, even if the latter go against God, whereas we are indebted 
to God for all the good that is done to us. Oh blindness of the 
world! You would have been served, Lord, if I had been most 
ungrateful to all that world and not the least bit ungrateful to 
You! But it has been just the reverse because of my sins. 

5. I endeavored to get more information from other persons 
in his household. I learned more about his bad moral state and 
saw that the poor man was not so much at fault. For the unfor- 
tunate woman had put some charms in a little copper idol she 
asked him to wear around his neck out of love for her, and no 
one was influential enough to be able to take this away from him. 

I do not believe with certainty that it is true that charms have 
this power. But I will mention this that I have seen so as to ad- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 5 


vise men to be on their guard with women who desire to carry 
on in this way. Men should believe that since these women have 
lost their shame before God (for women are obliged to modesty 
more than men), they can be trusted in nothing; for they will 
stop at nothing so as to hold on to this friendship and passion 
the devil has placed in them. Even though I have been so 
wretched, I have never fallen into anything of this sort, nor have 
I ever tried to do evil; nor, even if I could have, would I ever 
have desired to force anyone to love me, for the Lord has pro- 
tected me from this. But if He should have let me, I would have 
done the evil that in everything else- 1 did, for there is nothing 
trustworthy in me. 

6. Once I knew about this charm, I began to show him more 
love. My intention was good; the deed bad. For in order to do 
good, no matter how great, one should not commit the slightest 
wrong. I used to speak with him very often about God. This 
must have profited him, although I rather believe that it 
prompted him to love me greatly. For in order to please me, 
he finally gave me the little idol, which I then threw in a river. 
Once he got rid of this, he began — like someone awaking from 
a deep sleep — to recall everything he had done during those years. 
And being frightened about himself and grieving over his bad 
moral state, he at last began to abhor the woman. Our Lady 
must have helped him greatly, for he was most devoted to her 
Immaculate Conception; and he celebrated this feast with great 
solemnity. Finally, he stopped seeing this woman entirely, and 
he never tired of thanking God for having given him light. 

Exactly one year from the first day I met him, he died. He 
was very devoted to the service of God, for I never thought that 
the great affection he bore me was wrong, although it could have 
been more pure. But there were also occasions on which, if we 
had not remaind very much in God's presence, there would have 
been more serious offenses. As I said, 5 once I understood a 
thing to be a mortal sin, I then avoided it; and it seems that 
his observing this in me helped him to love me. For I believe 
that all men must be more friendly toward women who they see 
are inclined toward virtue. And this is the means whereby women 
ought to gain more of what they are seeking from men, as I shall 


St. Teresa of Avila 

say later. I am certain that he is on the path of salvation. He 
died a very good death and completely detached from that oc- 
casion. It seems the Lord desired that by these means he would 
be saved. 

7. With the severest afflictions, I spent three months in that 
place, for the cure was too harsh for my constitution. After two 
months, because of the potent medicines, my life was almost at 
an end. The severity of the heart pains, which I went to have 
cured, was more acute. For sometimes it seemed that sharp teeth 
were biting into me, so much so that it was feared I had rabies. 
With the continuous fever and the great lack of strength (for 
because of nausea I wasn't able to eat anything, only drink), I 
was so shrivelled and wasted away (because for almost a month 
they gave me a daily purge) that my nerves began to shrink caus- 
ing such unbearable pains that I found no rest either by day or 
by night — a very deep sadness. 

8. Seeing such poor results, my father brought me back to 
where doctors could come to see me. They all gave up hope for 
me, for they said that on top of all this sickness, I was also tuber- 
cular. I cared little about this diagnosis. The pains were what 
exhausted me, for they were like one continuous entity 
throughout my whole body, from head to foot. Pain of the nerves 
is unbearable, as doctors affirm, and since my nerves were all 
shrunken, certainly it was a bitter torment. How many merits 
could I have gained, were it not for my own fault! 

I remained in this excruciating state no more than three 
months, for it seemed impossible to be able to suffer so many 
ills together. Now I am amazed; and I consider the patience His 
Majesty gave me a great favor from the Lord, for this patience 
was clearly seen to come from Him. It greatly profited me to 
have read the story of Job in St. Gregory's Morals. b For it 
seems the Lord prepared me by this means, together with my 
having begun to experience prayer, so that I could be able to 
bear the suffering with so much conformity to His will. All my 
conversations were with Him. I kept these words of Job very 
habitually in my mind and recited them: Since we receive good things 
from the hand of the Lord, why do we not suffer the evil things? 7 This 
it seems gave me strength. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 5 


9. Then the feast of our Lady in August came. The torment 
had been going on since April, but it was worse during the lat- 
ter three months. I hastened to go to confession, for I always 
liked to confess frequently. They thought I was afraid of dying, 
and so that I would not become troubled my father would not 
allow me to confess. Oh, love, too excessive, springing from flesh 
and blood; even though from so Catholic and prudent a father 
(for he was every bit of this, and his action did not arise from 
ignorance), it could have done me great harm! That night I suf- 
fered a paroxysm in which I remained for four days, 8 or a lit- 
tle less, without any feeling. At this time they gave me the sacra- 
ment of the anointing of the sick, and from hour to hour or mo- 
ment to moment they thought I was going to die; they did nothing 
but recite the Creed to me, as if I were able to understand them. 
At times they were so certain I was dead that afterward I even 
found the wax on my eyes/' 

10. The sorrow my father felt for not having let me confess 
was great — many outcries and prayers to God. Blessed be He 
who desired to hear them! For after the grave in my convent 
was open for a day and a half awaiting arrival of the body, and 
the funeral rites were already celebrated at a monastery of our 
friars outside the city, the Lord allowed me to return to con- 
sciousness. Immediately I desired to confess. I received Com- 
munion with many tears, though it seems to me these tears were 
not caused by sorrow for having offended God, which would 
have been sufficient for salvation, but for the mistake I made 
on account of those who told me certain things were not mortal 
sins, which I afterward clearly saw were. The pains that remained 
were unsupportable — the contrition imperfect, although the con- 
fession was integral, including, in my opinion, everything I 
understood to have been an offense against God. For among 
other favors His Majesty has given me since my first Commu- 
nion, there is this one: that I never fail to confess what I think 
is a sin even though venial. But without a doubt it seems to me 
that my salvation would have been in jeopardy if I should have 
then died since on the one hand my confessors were so poorly 
educated and on the other hand I was wretched, and for many 
other reasons. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

11. Truly and certainly it seems to me that I am so startled 
in arriving at this part of my life and in seeing how apparently 
the Lord raised me from the dead that I am almost trembling 
within myself. I think it was good, O my soul, that you beheld 
the danger from which the Lord delivered you. And if out of 
love you do not give up offending Him, may you do so out of 
fear lest on any other of a thousand occasions He might let you 
die in a more dangerous state. I don't believe I'm adding much 
by saying "any other of a thousand," although I may be scolded 
by the one who commanded me to be moderate in telling about 
my sins; and they are being really beautified. 

For the love of God I beg him not to cut out anything having 
to do with my faults, for this is where the magnificence of God 
and what He endures from a soul is seen more clearly. May He 
be blessed forever. May it please His Majesty that I die rather 
than ever cease to love Him. 

Chapter 6 

Treats of how much she owes the Lord for having given her conformity 
to His will in the midst of such severe trials, and how she took the glorious 
St. Joseph for her mediator and advocate, and of the great good he did her. 

paroxysm that only the Lord can know the unbearable 
torments I suffered within myself: my tongue, bitten to pieces; 
my throat unable to let even water pass down — from not having 
swallowed anything and from the great weakness that oppressed 
me; everything seeming to be disjointed; the greatest confusion 
in my head; all shrivelled and drawn together in a ball. The result 
of the torments of those four days was that I was unable to stir, 
not an arm or a foot, neither hand nor head, unable to move 
as though I were dead; only one finger on my right hand it seems 
I was able to move. Since there was no way of touching me, 
because I was so bruised that I couldn't endure it, they moved 
me about in a sheet, one of the nuns at one end and another 
at the other. 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 6 


This lasted until Easter. My only relief was that if they did 
not touch me, the pains often stopped, and on account of this 
bit of rest, I considered myself already well; for I was fearful 
I would lose patience. And so I was very happy to be without 
such sharp and continuous pains, although the quartan fevers 2 
that remained with their accompanying severe chills were so 
harsh that I found them unbearable; the lack of appetite was 
very great. 

2. Right away I was in such a hurry to return to the convent 
that I made them bring me back as I was. 5 The one they 
expected to be brought back dead they received alive; but the 
body, worse than dead, was a pity to behold. The state of my 
weakness was indescribable, for I was then only bones. I may 
add that the above condition lasted for more than eight months. 
The paralysis, although it gradually got better, lasted almost three 
years. 4 When I began to go about on hands and knees, I 
praised God. With great conformity to His will, I suffered all 
those years and — if not in these early sufferings — with great 
gladness. For it was all a trifle to me in comparison with the 
pains and torments suffered in the beginning. I was very 
conformed to the will of God, and I would have remained so 
even had He left me in this condition forever. It seems to me 
that all my longing to be cured was that I might remain alone 
in prayer as was my custom, for in the infirmary the suitable 
means for this was lacking. I went to confession very often. I 
spoke much about God in such a way that I was edifying to 
everyone, and they were amazed at the patience the Lord gave 
me. For if this patience had not come from the hand of His 
Majesty, it seemed it would have been impossible to suffer so 
much with so great contentment. 

3. It was a great thing that He had granted me the favor in 
prayer which He did, for this made me understand the meaning 
of love for Him. For within that short time I saw some new 
virtues arise in me (although they were not strong since they 
were insufficient to sustain me in righteousness): not speaking 
evil of anyone, no matter how slight, but ordinarily avoiding 
all fault-finding. I was very much aware that I should not desire 
to say of another person what I would not want them to say of 


St. Teresa of Avila 

me. I was extremely cautious about this in the occasions there 
were — although not so perfectly that I did not sometimes fail 
a little when the occasions were very great; but ordinarily I was 
faithful. And thus I so persuaded those who associated with me 
that they acquired the habit. It became generally known that 
where I was present there was no talking behind anyone's back, 
and this was the opinion of my friends, relatives, and all those 
I had taught. Nevertheless in other matters I will have to render 
an account to God for the bad example I gave them. 

May His Majesty be pleased to pardon me, for I have been 
the cause of many evils but not with the intention of doing all 
the harm that was afterward the outcome of my deeds. 

4. There remained in me the desire for solitude and a fond- 
ness for conversing and speaking about God. If I found someone 
with whom to speak thus, it gave me more happiness and recrea- 
tion than all the suave — coarse, to use a better word — conver- 
sation of the world. I received Communion and confessed much 
more often and desired to do so. I liked to read good books very 
much, and felt the deepest repentance after having offended God. 
For often, I recall, I did not dare pray, because I feared as I 
would a severe punishment the very bitter sorrow I would have 
to feel at having offended God. This went on increasing after- 
ward to such an extreme that I don't know what to compare the 
torment to. This feeling did not in any way spring from fear, 
but since I remembered the favors the Lord granted me in prayer 
and the many things I owed Him, and I saw how badly I was 
repaying Him, I could not endure it. And seeing my lack of 
amendment, I became extremely vexed about the many tears 
I was shedding over my faults, for neither were my resolutions 
nor were the hardships I suffered enough to keep me from plac- 
ing myself in the occasion and falling again. They seemed 
fraudulent tears to me, and afterward the fault appeared to be 
greater, because I saw the wonderful favor the Lord bestowed 
in giving me these tears and such deep repentance. I endeavored 
to go to confession right away and, in my opinion, I did what 
I could to return to God's grace. 

The whole trouble lay in not getting at the root of the occa- 
sions and with my confessors who were of little help. For had 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 6 


they told me of the danger I was in and that I had the obliga- 
tion to avoid those friendships, without a doubt I believe I would 
have remedied the matter. For in no way would I have endured 
being in mortal sin even for a day should I have understood that 
to be the case. 

All these signs of fear of God came to me during prayer; and 
the greatest sign was that they were enveloped in love, for punish- 
ment did not enter my mind. This carefulness of conscience with 
respect to mortal sins lasted all during my illness. Oh, God help 
me, how I desired my health so as to serve Him more, and this 
health was the cause of all my harm. 

5. Since I saw myself so crippled and still so young and how 
helpless the doctors of earth were, I resolved to go for aid to the 
doctors of heaven that they might cure me. For I still desired 
my health, even though I bore the illness with much happiness. 
And I thought sometimes that if in being well I were to be con- 
demned, I would be better off this way. But nonetheless I thought 
I would be able to serve God much better if I were in good health. 
This is our mistake: not abandoning ourselves entirely to what 
the Lord does, for He knows best what is fitting for us. 

6. I began to attend Mass and to recite devotional prayers 
that were highly approved, for I never cared for other devotions 
that some people practice, especially women, with those 
ceremonies, intolerable to me, but to them an aid for their devo- 
tion. Afterward I came to understand that they were not suitable 
devotions but superstitious ones. I took for my advocate and lord 
the glorious St. Joseph and earnestly recommended myself to 
him. I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones 
concerning honor and loss of soul this father and lord of mine 
came to my rescue in better ways than I knew how to ask for. 
I don't recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for 
anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great 
many favors God has granted me through the mediation of this 
blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and 
soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given them grace 
to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have 
experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants 
us to understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on 


St. Teresa of Avila 

earth — for since bearing the title of father, being the Lord's tutor, 
Joseph could give the Child command — so in heaven God does 
whatever he commands. 

This has been observed by other persons, also through 
experience, whom I have told to recommend themselves to him. 
And so there are many who in experiencing this truth renew 
their devotion to him. 

7. I endeavored to celebrate his feast with all the solemnity 
possible. But, in my desire to do so very carefully and well, I 
was filled more with vanity than with spirituality, though my 
intention was good. This was a fault I had, that if the Lord gave 
me the grace to do something good, what I did was filled with 
imperfections and many failures. In wrongdoing, curiosity, and 
vanity, I was especially skillful and diligent. May the Lord pardon 

8. Because of my impressive experience of the goods this 
glorious saint obtains from God, I had the desire to persuade 
all to be devoted to him. I have not known anyone truly devoted 
to him and rendering him special services who has not advanced 
more in virtue. For in a powerful way he benefits souls who 
recommend themselves to him. It seems to me that for some years 
now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my 
petition is always granted. If the request is somewhat out of line, 
he rectifies it for my greater good. If I were a person who had 
authority for writing I would willingly and in a very detailed 
way enlarge upon what I am saying about the favors this glorious 
saint did for me and for others. But so as to do no more than 
what they gave me the command to do, I will be briefer in many 
matters than I desire, more extensive in others than necessary — in 
sum, like one who has little discretion in anything that is good. 
I only ask for the love of God those who do not believe me to 
try, and they will see through experience the great good that 
comes from recommending oneself to this glorious patriarch and 
being devoted to him. Especially persons of prayer should always 
be attached to him. For I don't know how one can think about 
the Queen of Angels and about when she went through so much 
with the Infant Jesus without giving thanks to St. Joseph for the 
good assistance he then provided them both with. Those who 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 6 


cannot find a master to teach them prayer should take this 
glorious saint for their master, and they will not go astray. Please 
God T may not have erred in being so bold as to speak about 
him, for although publicly I am devoted to him, I have always 
been lacking in serving and imitating him. For he being who 
he is brought it about that I could rise and walk and not be 
crippled; and I being who I am used this favor badly. 

9. Who would have claimed I would so quickly fall after so 
many gifts from God, after His Majesty had begun to give me 
virtues which themselves roused me to His service, after I had 
seen myself almost dead and in such serious danger of being con- 
demned, after having been raised up body and soul so that all 
who saw me were amazed to see me alive! What is this, my Lord! 
Must we live in so dangerous a life? For in writing this it seems 
to me that with Your favor and through Your mercy I can say 
what St. Paul said, although not with such perfection, that I no 
longer live but that You, my Creator, live in me.' The reason 
is that for some years now, insofar as I can understand, You 
have held me by Your hand, and 1 see in myself desires and 
resolutions — and in some way have received proof of them 
through experience with many things during these years — not 
to do anything against Your will no matter how small; although 
I must offend Your Majesty in many ways without knowing it. 
And also it seems to me that no task to be done for love of You 
could be given me without my accomplishing it with great 
determination. And in some tasks You have helped me carry 
them out. I do not desire the world or any part of it; nor, it seems, 
does anything make me happy unless it comes from You, and 
the rest seems to me a heavy cross. 

I could well be mistaken, and so it could be that I do not possess 
what I have spoken of, but You see well, my Lord, that insofar 
as I can understand I am not lying. And I fear — and with every 
reason — lest You abandon me. For now I know what happens 
to my strength and little virtue if You are not always giving and 
helping me so that I do not forsake You. May it please Your 
Majesty that even now while all this comes to mind I may not 
be separated from You. 

I don't know why we desire to live since everything is so uncer- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

tain. It seemed to me impossible, my Lord, to abandon You 
so completely. And since I did forsake You so many times, I 
cannot but fear. For when You withdrew a little from me, I fell 
to the ground. May You be blessed forever! Although I aban- 
doned You, You did not abandon me so completely as not to 
turn to raise me up by always holding our Your hand to me. 
And often times, Lord, I did not want it; nor did I desire to 
understand how often You called me again, as I shall now tell. 

Chapter 7 

Treats of the ways by which she lost the favors the Lord had granted her 
and of how distracted a life she began to live. Speaks of the harm that 
results when monasteries of nuns are not strictly enclosed. 

SINCE I THUS BEGAN to go from pastime to pastime, from 
vanity to vanity, from one occasion to another, to place 
myself so often in very serious occasions, and to allow my soul 
to become so spoiled by many vanities, I was then ashamed to 
return to the search for God by means of a friendship as special 
as is that found in the intimate exchange of prayer. And I was 
aided in this vanity by the fact that as the sins increased I began 
to lose joy in virtuous things and my taste for them. I saw very 
clearly, my Lord, that these were failing me because I was failing 
You. 1 

This was the most terrible trick the devil could play on me, 
under the guise of humility: that seeing myself so corrupted I 
began to fear the practice of prayer. It seemed to me that, since 
in being wicked I was among the worst, it was better to go the 
way of the many, to recite what I was obliged to vocally and 
not to practice mental prayer and so much intimacy with God, 
for I merited to be with the devils. And it seemed to me that 
I was deceiving people since exteriorly I kept up such good 
appearances. Thus the convent where I resided was not at fault. 
For in my craftiness I strove to be held in esteem, although I 
did not advertently feign Christianity. In this matter of hypocrisy 
and vainglory, praise God, I don't recall ever having offended 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 7 


Him knowingly, because at the first urgings I felt so much sorrow 
that the devil ended up with a loss and I with a gain. And so 
in this matter he never tempted me very much. Perhaps if God 
had permitted me to be tempted in this regard as severely as 
in other things, I would also have fallen. But His Majesty up 
till now has preserved me in this. May He be blessed forever! 
Rather, I grieved very much over being held in esteem since 
I knew what was down deep in my heart. 

2. The fact that they did not consider me so bad was due to 
their seeing me so young and in the midst of so many occasions, 
often withdrawing into solitude to pray and read, speaking much 
about God, fond of having His image painted and put up in 
many places and of having an oratory and seeking in it the things 
that promote devotion, not engaging in fault-finding or other 
things of this sort that have the appearance of virtue. Joined to 
this was my appreciation — though through vanity — for the things 
that are usually esteemed in the world. As a result they gave 
me as much and even more freedom than they gave to the older 
ones. And they had great confidence in me. For being in a 
monastery I don't think I could have been able even to speak 
of such matters as taking the liberty to do something without 
permission, such as giving messages through holes in the walls, 
or at night; nor did I ever do so, for the Lord held me by His 
hand. It seemed to me — for I considered many things knowingly 
and purposely — that to risk the reputation of so many who were 
so good, because of my own wretchedness, would have been very 
wrong; as if the other things I was doing were good! Still, the 
evil done was not so knowingly done. 

3. That's why it seems to me it did me great harm not to be 
in an enclosed monastery. For the freedom that those who were 
good were able to enjoy in good conscience (for they were not 
obligated to more since they did not make the vow of enclosure) 
would have certainly brought me, who am so wretched, to hell, 
if the Lord with so many remedies and means and with His very 
special favors had not drawn me out of this danger. Thus it seems 
to me that a monastery of women that allows freedom is a 
tremendous danger. And, what is more, it seems that for those 
who desire to live miserable lives it is a step on the way toward 


St. Teresa of Avila 

hell rather than a remedy for their weaknesses. 

1 am not saying this of my own monastery 2 but of others I 
have known and seen. For in mine there are so many who serve 
the Lord authentically and with great perfection that His 
Majesty, being so good, cannot keep from favoring them. This 
monastery is not one of those very open ones, but in it is observed 
a truly religious way of life. 

4. I say that it makes me very sad that the Lord needs to make 
special appeals — not once but many times — in order that one 
be saved. Since worldly honors and recreations are so exalted 
and one's obligations so poorly understood, may it please God 
that people do not take for virtue what is sin, as I often did. 
And there is so much difficulty in getting to know one's 
obligations that the Lord really needs to intervene in the matter. 

If parents would take my advice since they do not want to 
place their daughters in an environment where the path to 
salvation is more dangerous than in the world, they would 
consider what pertains to their daughters' reputation. They 
should prefer a marriage of much lower status for their daughters 
to placing them in monasteries like these, unless their daughters 
are very inclined to virtue — and please God the monastery will 
then be beneficial. Otherwise parents should keep them at home. 
For if a daughter desires to be bad, she will not be able to conceal 
it at home for more than a short time, but in the monastery she 
can for a long time; and finally the Lord reveals it. She does 
harm not only to herself but to all. And at times the poor thing 
is not at fault, because she follows after what she finds. It is a 
pity that many who desire to withdraw from the world, thinking 
they are going to serve the Lord and flee worldly dangers, find 
themselves in ten worlds joined together without knowing how 
to protect themselves or remedy the situation. For youthfulness, 
sensuality, and the devil incite them and make them prone to 
follow after things that are of the very world. And yet, these are 
accepted as good, so to speak. It seems to me that somewhat 
like the unfortunate heretics these religious desire to be blind 
and to make others think that their path is a good one, and they 
believe it to be so without believing it, for within themselves 
dwells one who informs them that it is bad. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 7 


5. Oh, tremendous evil! Tremendous evil of religious — I am 
not speaking now more of women than of men — where religious 
life is not observed, where in a monastery there are two paths 
(one of virtue and religious life, and the other of a lack of religious 
life) and almost all walk in like manner; rather, in place of like 
manner I should say evil manner. For on account of our sins 
the greater number take the more imperfect path. And since there 
are more of them, it is the more favored path. True religious 
life is practiced so little that friars, or nuns, who are indeed about 
to follow wholeheartedly their call must fear those of their own 
house more than all the devils. And they must be more cautious 
and dissimulating in speaking about the friendship they desired 
to have with God than in speaking of other friendships and at- 
tachments that the devil arranges in monasteries. I don't know 
why we are amazed that there are so many evils in the Church 
since those who are to be the models from which all might copy 
the virtues are so obscurely fashioned that the spirit of the saints 
of the past has abandoned the religious communities. May it 
please the divine Majesty to remedy this as He sees it to be 
necessary, amen. 

6. Now then, I engaged in these conversations thinking that 
since this was the custom, my soul would not receive the harm 
and distraction I afterward understood comes from such com- 
panionship. It seemed to me that something as general in many 
monasteries as this visiting would not do me any more harm 
than it did others who I say were good. I did not consider that 
they were much better and that what was a danger for me was 
not so much so for others, for I doubted that there was always 
some kind of danger — but at least there was some waste of time. 
While I was once with a person, the Lord at the outset of our 
acquaintance desired to make me understand that those friend- 
ships were not proper for me and to counsel me and give me 
advice in the midst of such thorough blindness. With great severi- 
ty, Christ appeared before me, making me understand what He 
regretted about the friendship. I saw Him with the eyes of my 
soul more clearly than I could have with the eyes of my body. 
And this vision left such an impression on me that, though more 
than twenty-six years have gone by, it seems to me it is still pre- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

sent. I was left very frightened and disturbed, and didn't want 
to see that person any more. 

7. It did me much harm not to know that it was possible to 
see in other ways than with the bodily eyes. The devil urged 
me on in this ignorance and made me think that any other way 
of seeing was impossible and that I had fancied the vision or 
that it could have come from the devil and other things of this 
sort; although the feeling always remained with me that it was 
from God and not a fancy. But since the vision was not to my 
liking, I strove to conceal it from myself. Since I did not dare 
speak about this with anyone and the devil returned with great 
importunity assuring me that it was not wrong to see such a per- 
son and that I was not losing my honor but rather that it was 
increasing, I returned to the same conversation and also at other 
times to other conversations. For many years I took part in this 
noxious form of recreation. It did not seem to me — since I was 
engaged in it — to be as bad as it was; although sometimes I saw 
clearly that it was not good. But no other friendship was as much 
a distraction to me as this one of which I am speaking, for I 
was extremely fond of it. 

8. Once at another time, when with this same person, we saw 
coming toward us — and others who were also there saw it — 
something that looked like a large toad, moving much more 
quickly than toads usually do. In that part where it came from 
I cannot understand how there could have been a nasty little 
creature like that in the middle of the day. nor had there ever 
been one there before. The effect it had on me, it seems to me, 
was not without mystery; and neither did I ever forget this. Oh, 
the greatness of God! With how much care and pity You were 
warning me in every way, and how little it benefited me! 

9. There was a nun there, 1 a relative of mine, older and a 
great servant of God and very religious. She also warned me 
sometimes. Not only did I not believe her, but I was annoyed 
with her and felt she was scandalized for no reason at alL 

I have spoken of this to make known my wickedness and the 
great goodness of God and to what extent I merited hell for such 
outrageous ingratitude; and also that if the Lord sometime should 
ordain and be pleased that a nun read this she might learn a 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 7 


lesson from me. I beg her for the love of our Lord to flee recrea- 
tions like these. May His Majesty be pleased that someone may 
be disillusioned by me in the place of the many persons I delud- 
ed, telling them that these recreations were not wrong and 
reassuring them in the midst of so great a danger. I did this on 
account of my blindness, for it was not my desire purposely to 
mislead them. And through the bad example I gave them — as 
I said 4 — I was the cause of many evils, not realising I was do- 
ing so much wrong. 

10. When I was sick during those first days before I knew how 
to take care of myself, I had the greatest desire to help others 
improve, a very common temptation of beginners, although in 
my case it turned out well. Since I loved my father so much, 
I desired for him the good I felt I got out of the practice of prayer. 
It seemed to me that in this life there could be no greater good 
than the practice of prayer. So in roundabout ways, as much 
as I could, I began to strive to get him to pray. I gave him books 
for this purpose. Since he had such virtue, as I mentioned/' he 
settled into this practice so well that within five or six years — it 
seems it was — he was so advanced that I praised the Lord very 
much, and this gave me the greatest consolation. Very severe 
were the many kinds of trials he had; all of them he suffered 
with the deepest conformity to God's will. He came often to see 
me, for it consoled him to speak of the things of God. 

1 1 . After I had begun to live in such havoc, and without prac- 
ticing prayer, and since I saw that he thought I was living as 
usual, t could not bear to let him be deceived. For thinking it 
was the more humble thing to do, I had gone a year and more 
without prayer. And this, as I shall say afterward, 6 was the 
greatest temptation I had, because on account of this I was 
heading just about straight to perdition. For when I practiced 
prayer, I offended God one day but then others I turned to 
recollection and withdrew more from the occasions. 

Since this blessed man came to talk with me about prayer, 
it was a bitter thing for me to see him so deceived as to think 
I conversed with God as I was accustomed before. And I told 
him that I no longer practiced prayer, but didn't give the reason. 
I brought up my illnesses as making it impossible for me. For 


St. Teresa of Avila 

though I was cured of that very serious illness, I have always 
up till now had illnesses and still have some that are serious 
enough and of various sorts, although lately not so severe. In 
particular, for twenty years I had vomiting spells every morning 
so that I could not eat anything until after noon; sometimes I 
had to wait longer. From the time I began to receive Communion 
more frequently, I have had to vomit at night before going to 
bed. And it is more painful because I have to induce it with a 
feather or some other thing, for if I let this go the sickness I feel 
becomes very bad. I am almost never, in my opinion, without 
many pains, and sometimes very severe ones, especially in the 
heart, although the sickness that gripped me almost continually 
occurs very seldom. I was cured eight years ago of the harsh 
paralysis and other illnesses with fever that I frequently suffered. 
All these illnesses now bother me so little that I am often glad, 
thinking the Lord is served by something. 

12. My father believed that my illnesses were the reason for 
my not praying; for he did not lie, and by this time, in accord 
with the things I spoke of to him, I shouldn't have lied either. 
So that he might believe more easily (for I saw clearly that there 
was no excuse for giving up prayer), I told him that I was doing 
a great deal by being able to keep up with the choir duties. But 
this was not sufficient cause to set aside something for which 
bodily strength is not necessary but only love and a habit; and 
the Lord always provides the opportunity if we desire. I say 
"always" because, although on occasion and also sometimes in 
sickness we are impeded from having hours free for solitude, 
there is no lack of other time when we have the health for this. 
And even in sickness itself and these other occasions the prayer 
is genuine when it comes from a soul that loves to offer the 
sickness up and accept what is happening and be conformed to 
it and to the other thousand things that happen. Prayer is an 
exercise of love, and it would be incorrect to think that if there 
is no time for solitude there is no prayer at all. With a little care 
great blessings can come when because of our labors the Lord 
takes from us the time we had set for prayer. And so I have found 
these blessings when I have had a good conscience. 

13. But my father because of his esteem and love for me be- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 7 


lieved everything I said; in fact he pitied me. But since he had 
already reached so sublime a state, he did not afterward spend 
as much time with me but would leave after a brief visit; for 
he said it was time lost. Since I wasted time on other vanities, 
I cared little about losing time. 

He wasn't the only one; I also tried to get some other persons 
to practice prayer. Even though I was taking part in these 
vanities, when I saw others who were fond of praying, I told 
them how to practice meditation and assisted them and gave them 
books. For, from the time I began prayer, as I said, I had this 
desire that others serve God. It seemed to me that since I no 
longer served the Lord as I knew I should, the knowledge His 
Majesty had given me would not be lost and that others would 
serve Him through me. I say this to make known the terrible 
blindness in which I lived, for I was allowing myself to get lost 
and striving to save others. 

14. At this time my father was seized with an illness that lasted 
for some days and from which he died. I went to take care of 
him, I who was sicker in soul, steeped in many vanities, than 
he was in body; although, during this entire more lax period 
of which I am speaking, never so steeped in them — insofar as 
I understood — as to be in mortal sin. For, should I have 
understood such to be the case, I would have in no way remained 
in that condition. 

I suffered much hardship during his sickness. I believe I served 
him somewhat for the trials he suffered during mine. Although 
I was very sick, I forced myself. Since in losing him I was losing 
every good and joy, and he was everything to me, I had great 
determination not to show him my grief and until he would die 
to act as though I were well. When I saw him coming to the 
end of his life, it seemed my soul was being wrenched from me, 
for I loved him dearly. 

15.1 cannot help but praise the Lord when I remember the 
death he died and his joy in dying, the counsels he gave us after 
receiving extreme unction, his begging us to recommend him 
to God and ask mercy for him and always to serve God and reflect 
on how all things come to an end. And in tears he told us about 
the great sorrow he felt in not having served God, and that he 


St. Teresa of Avila 

would have liked to be a friar; I mean, he would have chosen 
one of the strictest orders. 

I am very certain that fifteen days before his death the Lord 
made it known to him that he was not going to live. For before 
this, even though he was sick, he did not think he was going 
to die. Afterward, even though he had much improved and the 
doctors told him so, he paid no attention to that but gave his 
attention to setting his soul in order. 

16. His main sickness was a very severe pain in his shoulders 
which never left him. Sometimes it hurt him so much he was 
in agony. I told him that since he was so devoted to the memory 
of when the Lord carried the burden of the cross that His Majesty 
thought He would like to make him experience something of 
what He suffered with that pain. This comforted my father so 
much that it seems to me I never heard him complain again. 
For three days his senses were very dull. On the day he died 
the Lord restored them so fully that we were amazed and he 
was in possession of them until, in the middle of the Creed, 
reciting it himself, he died. 7 He looked like an angel. This it 
seems to me he was, so to speak, in soul and character, for he 
preserved his soul very well. 

I don't know why I have told this, unless the more to blame 
my wicked life after having seen such a death and known such 
a life. For in order to resemble in some way a father like this 
I should have improved. His confessor — who was a Dominican, 
a very learned man 8 — said he did not doubt but that my father 
had gone straight to heaven. He had been confessor to my father 
for some years and praised his purity of conscience. 

17. This Dominican Father who was very good and God- 
fearing profited me a great deal. For I went to confession to him, 
and he took it upon himself with care to do good for my soul 
and make me understand the perdition that I was bringing on 
myself. He had me receive Communin every fifteen days. And, 
little by little, in beginning to talk to him, I discussed my prayer 
with him. He told me not to let it go, that it could in no way 
do me anything but good. I began to return to it, although not 
to give up the occasions of sin; and I never again abandoned it. 

I was living an extremely burdensome life, because in prayer 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 7 


I understood more clearly my faults. On the one hand God was 
calling me; on the other hand I was following the world. All the 
things of God made me happy; those of the world held me bound. 
It seems I desired to harmonize these two contraries — so inimical 
to one another — such as are the spiritual life and sensory joys, 
pleasures, and pastimes. In prayer I was having great trouble, 
for my spirit was not proceeding as lord but as slave. And so 
I was not able to shut myself within myself (which was my whole 
manner of procedure in prayer); instead, I shut within myself 
a thousand vanities. 

Thus I passed many years, for now I am surprised how I could 
have put up with both and not abandon either the one or the 
other. Well do I know that to abandon prayer was no longer 
in my hands, for He held me in His, He who desired to give 
me greater favors. 

18. Oh, help me God, if I should have to tell about the occa- 
sions God freed me from in these years and how I returned and 
placed myself in them again and of the dangers of losing my 
reputation completely from which He liberated me! I was do- 
ing deeds that uncovered what I was, and the Lord was cover- 
ing my evils and uncovering some little virtue, if I had it, and 
making it great in the eyes of others so that they always esteemed 
me highly. For although sometimes my vanities leaked out, they 
were not recognized since other things that appeared good were 
what were noticed. 

And the reason was that the Knower of all things already saw 
that this was necessary in order that those to whom I would after- 
ward speak of His service would give me some credibility, and 
in His sovereign largess He looked not at my great sins but at 
the desires I often had to serve Him and at the sorrow I felt for 
not having the strength in me to put these desires into practice. 

19. O Lord of my soul! How can I extol the favors You gave 
me during these years! And how at the time when I offended 
You most You quickly prepared me with an extraordinary 
repentance to taste Your favors and gifts! Indeed, my King, You, 
as One who well knew what to me would be most distressing, 
chose as a means the most delicate and painful punishment. With 
wonderful gifts You punished my sins! 


St. Teresa of Avila 

I do not believe I am speaking nonsense, although it would 
be good if I were to lose my senses in turning now again to the 
memory of my ingratitude and wickedness. 

It was so much more painful, with my temperament, to receive 
favors, when I had fallen into serious faults than to receive 
punishment. For one of these favors, it seems certain to me, 
bewildered and confounded and wearied me more than many 
sicknesses joined with many other trials. For the latter, I saw 
I merited, and it seemed to me I was paying something for my 
sins, although it all amounted to little because they were so many. 
But to see myself receiving favors again after paying so badly 
for those received is a kind of terrible torment for me. I believe 
this is so for all those who have had some knowledge and love 
of God, because with noble and virtuous hearts this is so even 
in human affairs. Here was the cause of my tears and my 
annoyance with myself in being aware of what I felt; I saw myself 
to be the type that is ever on the eve of falling, although my 
resolutions and desires — for that length of time 1 say — were firm. 

20. A great evil it is for a soul to be alone in the midst of so 
many dangers. It seems to me that if I should have had someone 
to talk all this over with it would have helped me, at least out 
of shame, not to fall again since I did not have any shame before 

For this reason I would counsel those who practice prayer to 
seek, at least in the beginning, friendship and association with 
other persons having the same interest. This is something most 
important even though the association may be only to help one 
another with prayers. The more of these prayers there are, the 
greater the gain. Since friends are sought out for conversations 
and human attachments, even though these latter may not be 
good, so as to relax and better enjoy telling about vain pleasures, 
I don't know why it is not permitted that persons beginning truly 
to love and to serve God talk with some others about their joys 
and trials, which all who practice prayer undergo. For if the 
friendship they desired to have with His Majesty is authentic, 
there is no reason to fear vainglory. And when these persons 
overcome vainglory in its first stirrings, they come away with 
merit. I believe that they who discuss these joys and trials for 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 7 


the sake of this friendship with God will benefit themselves and 
those who hear them, and they will come away instructed; even 
without understanding how, they will have instructed their 

21 . Those who experience vainglory in speaking of these things 
will also experience it in attending Mass with devotion if they 
are seen and in doing other things they must do if they want 
to be Christian; and these deeds they are not allowed to aban- 
don for fear of vainglory. 

Since this spiritual friendship is so extremely important for 
souls not yet fortified in virtue — since they have so many op- 
ponents and friends to incite them to evil — I don't know how 
to urge it enough. It seems to me the devil has used the follow- 
ing artifice as something very important to him: those who tru- 
ly want to love and to please God are as hidden as other 
unrighteous persons are incited to make their evil known so that 
evil becomes so customary it seems socially justified; and the 
offenses committed against God in this matter are published. 

22. I don't know if I am speaking foolish words. If I am, may 
your Reverence'' tear them up; and if they are not, help my 
stupidity by adding here a great deal. There is so much slug- 
gishness in matters having to do with the service of God that 
it is necessary for those who serve Him to become shields for 
one another that they might advance. For it is considered good 
to walk in the vanities and pleasures of the world, and those who 
don't, are unnoticed. If any begin to give themselves to God, 
there are so many to criticize them that they need to seek com- 
panionship to defend themselves until they are so strong that 
it is no longer a burden for them to suffer this criticism. And 
if they don't seek this companionship, they will find themselves 
in much difficulty. 

It seems to me this must be why some saints used to go to 
the deserts. And it is a kind of humility not to trust in oneself 
but to believe that through those with whom one converses God 
will help and increase charity while it is being shared. And there 
are a thousand graces I would not dare speak of if I did not have 
powerful experience of the benefit that comes from this sharing. 

It is true that I am the weakest and most wicked of all human 


St. Teresa of Avila 

beings. But I believe they will not be lost who, humbling 
themselves, even though they be strong, do not believe by 
themselves but believe this one who has experience. Of myself 
I know and say that if the Lord had not revealed this truth to 
me and given me the means by which I could ordinarily talk 
with persons who practiced prayer, I, falling and rising, would 
have ended by throwing myself straight into hell. For in falling 
I had many friends to help me; but in rising I found myself so 
alone that I am now amazed I did not remain ever fallen. And 
I praise the mercy of God, for it was He alone who gave me 
His hand. May He be blessed forever and ever. Amen. 

Chapter S 

Treats of the great good it did her not to turn from prayer completely and 
thereby lose her soul, and of what an excellent means prayer is for winning 
back what is lost. Urges all to this practice. Tells how it is so highly 
profitable and that even though one may abandon it again, there is a great 
value in giving some time to so great a good. 

THOUGH I SEE CLEARLY that it will be to no one's lik- 
ing to see something so wretched, not without cause have 
I dwelt at such length on this period of my life. For I certainly 
wish that those who read this would abhor me when they see 
a soul so pertinacious and ungrateful toward Him who bestowed 
on her so many favors. And would that I had the permission 
to tell of the many times I failed God during this period by not 
seeking support from this strong pillar of prayer. 

2. I voyaged on this tempestuous sea for almost twenty years 
with these fallings and risings and this evil — since I fell 
again — and in a life so beneath perfection that I paid almost no 
attention to venial sins. And mortal sins, although I feared them, 
I did not fear them as I should have since I did not turn away 
from the dangers. I should say that it is one of the most painful 
lives, I think, that one can imagine; for neither did I enjoy God 
nor did I find happiness in the world. When I was experiencing 
the enjoyments of the world, I felt sorrow when I recalled what 
XjQweJ_lp^3k><^ with God, my attachments to the 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 8 


world disturbed me. This is a war so troublesome that I don't 
know how I was able to suffer it even a month, much less for 
so many years. 

However, I see clearly the great mercy the Lord bestowed on 
me; for though I continued to associate with the world, I had 
the courage to practice prayer. I say courage, for I do not know 
what would require greater courage among all the things there 
are in the world than to betray the king and know that he knows 
it and yet never leave His presence. Though we are always in 
the presence of God, it seems to me the manner is different with 
those who practice prayer, for they are aware that He is looking 
at them. With others, it can happen that several days pass without 
their recalling that God sees them. 

3. True, during these years there were many months, and 
I believe sometimes a year, that I kept from offending the Lord. 
And I put forth some effort, and at times a great deal of it, not 
to offend Him. Because all that I write is said with complete 
truthfulness, I shall treat of this effort now. But I remember lit- 
tle of these good days, and so they must have been few; and 
a lot about the bad ones. Few days passed without my devoting 
long periods to prayer, unless I was very sick or very busy. When 
I was sick, I felt better when with God. I tried to get persons 
who talked with me to practice prayer, and I besought the Lord 
for them. I frequently spoke of Him. 

So, save for the year I mentioned, for more than eighteen of 
the twenty-eight years since I began prayer, I suffered this bat- 
tle and conflict between friendship with God and friendship with 
the world. During the remaining years of which I have yet to 
speak, the cause of the war changed, although the war was not 
a small one. But since it was, in my opinion, for the service of 
God and with knowledge of the vanity that the world is, 
everything went smoothly, as I shall say afterward. 

4. I have recounted all this at length, as I already mention- 
ed, 1 so that the mercy of God and my ingratitude might be 
seen; also, in order that one might understand the great good 
God does for a soul that willingly disposes itself for the practice 
of prayer, even though it is not as disposed as is necessary. I 
recount this also that one may understand how if the soul 


St. Teresa of Avila 

perseveres in prayer, in the midst of the sins, temptations, and 
failures of a thousand kinds that the devil places in its path, in 
the end, I hold as certain, the Lord will draw it forth to the har- 
bor of salvation as — now it seems — He did for me. May it please 
His Majesty that I do not get lost again. 

5. The good that one who practices prayer possesses has been 
written of by many saints and holy persons; I mean mental 
prayer — glory be to God for this good! If it were not for this 
good, even though I have little humility, I should not be so proud 
as to dare speak about mental prayer. 

I can speak of what I have experience of. It is that in spite 
of any wrong they who practice prayer do, they must not aban- 
don prayer since it is the means by which they can remedy the 
situation; and to remedy it without prayer would be much more 
difficult. May the devil not tempt them, the way he did me, to 
give up prayer out of humility. May those persons believe that 
God's words cannot fail. For if we are truly repentant and resolve 
not to offend God, He will return to the former friendship and 
bestow the favors He previously did, and sometimes more if the 
repentance merits it. 

Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the 
love of the Lord not to go without so great a good. There is 
nothing here to fear but only something to desire. Even if there 
be no great progress, or much effort in reaching such perfec- 
tion as to deserve the favors and mercies God bestows on the 
more generous, at least a person will come to understand the 
road leading to heaven. And if one perseveres, I trust then in 
the mercy of God, who never fails to repay anyone who has taken 
Him for a friend. For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing 
else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking 
time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. 
In order that love be true and the friendship endure, the wills 
of the friends must be in accord. The will of the Lord, it is already 
known, cannot be at fault; our will is vicious, sensual, and 
ungrateful. And if you do not yet love Him as He loves you 
because You have not reached the degree of conformity with 
His will, you will endure this pain of spending a long while with 
one who is so different from you when you see how much it 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 8 


benefits you to possess His friendship and how much He loves 

6. O infinite goodness of my God, for it seems to me I see 
that such is the way You are and the way I am! O delight of 
angels, when I see this I desire to be completely consumed in 
loving You! How certainly You do suffer the one who suffers 
to be with You! Oh, what a good friend You make, my Lord! 
How You proceed by favoring and enduring. You wait for the 
others to adapt to Your nature, and in the meanwhile You put 
up with theirs! You take into account, my Lord, the times when 
they love You, and in one instant of repentance You forget their 

I have seen this clearly myself. I do not know, my Creator, 
why it is that every one does not strive to reach You through 
this special friendship, and why those who are wicked, who are 
not conformed to Your will, do not, in order that You make 
them good, allow You to be with them at least two hours each 
day, even though they may not be with You, but with a thou- 
sand disturbances from worldly cares and thoughts, as was the 
case with me. Through this effort they make to remain in such 
good company (for You see that in the beginning they cannot 
do more, nor afterward, sometimes), You, Lord, force the devils 
not to attack them, so that each day the devils' strength against 
them lessens; and You give them the victory over the devils. 
Yes, for You do not kill — life of all lives! — any of those who trust 
in You and desire You for friend. But You sustain the life of 
the body with more health, and You give life to the soul. 

7. I don't understand what they fear who fear to begin the 
practice of mental prayer. I don't know what they are afraid of. 
The devil is doing his task well of making the truth seem evil 
if through fears he prevents me from thinking of how I have of- 
fended God, and of the many things I owe Him, and of what 
leads to hell and what to glory, and of the great trials and suf- 
ferings the Lord endured for me. 

This was my whole method of prayer, and the method was 
this one for as long as I walked in the midst of these dangers; 
these are the things I thought of when I was able. And very often, 
for some years, I was more anxious that the hour I had deter- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

mined to spend in prayer be over than I was to remain there, 
and more anxious to listen for the striking of the clock than to 
attend to other good things. And I don't know what heavy 
penance could have come to mind that frequently I would not 
have gladly undertaken rather than recollect myself in the prac- 
tice of prayer. It is certain that so unbearable was the force used 
by the devil, or coming from my wretched habits, to prevent 
me from going to prayer, and so unbearable the sadness I felt 
on entering the oratory, that I had to muster up all my courage 
(and they say I have no small amount of that, and it is observed 
that God has given me more than women usually have, but I 
have made poor use of it) in order to force myself; and in the 
end the Lord helped me. After I had made this effort, I found 
myself left with greater quiet and delight than sometimes when 
I had the desire to pray. 

8. Now, then, if the Lord put up with someone as miserable 
as myself for so long a time, and it seems clear that by this means 
all my evils were remedied, who, no matter how bad they may 
be, has reason to fear? For no matter how bad they may be, 
they will not be bad for as many years as I was after having 
received so many favors from the Lord. Who can lose confidence? 
For the Lord endured so much with me only because I desired 
and strove to have some place and time in order that He might 
be with me. And this I often did without eagerness but through 
my own great struggles or through the strength the Lord Himself 
gave me. For if those who do not serve Him but offend Him 
derive so much good from prayer and find it so necessary — and 
no one can truly discover any harm that prayer can do, the 
greatest harm being not to practice it — why do those who serve 
God and desire to serve Him abandon it? I, indeed, cannot 
understand why, unless it is that they want to undergo the trials 
of life with greater trial and close the door on God so that He 
may not make them happy. I certainly pity those who serve the 
Lord at their own cost, because for those who practice prayer 
the Lord Himself pays the cost since through their little labor 
He gives them delight so that with the help of this delight they 
might suffer the trials. 

9. Because much will be said about these delights that the Lord 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 8 


gives to those who persevere in prayer, I shall not say anything 
here. I say only that prayer is the door to favors as great as those 
He granted me. If this door is closed, I don't know how He will 
grant them. For even though He may desire to enter and take 
delight in a soul and favor it, there is no way of His doing this, 
for He wants it alone and clean and desirous of receiving His 
graces. If we place many stumbling blocks in His path and don't 
do a thing to remove them, how will He be able to come to us? 
And we desire God to grant us great favors! 

10. To make known His mercy and the great good it did me 
not to abandon prayer and reading. I shall speak here — since 
it is so important to understand these things — about the heavy 
battery the devil uses against a soul in order to win it over, and 
about the skill and mercy with which the Lord endeavors to bring 
it back to Himself, and about how to be on guard against the 
dangers I was not on guard against. Above all, for love of our 
Lord and for the great love with which He wins us back to 
Himself, I beg souls to watch out for the occasions. For we have 
nothing to rely on for our defense when we are placed in these 
occasions where there are so many enemies to war against us 
and so many weaknesses of our own. 

11. Would that I knew how to depict the captivity my soul 
was in during this time. I understood clearly that I was in cap- 
tivity, but I wasn't able to understand why; nor was I able to 
believe completely that what my confessors did not consider 
serious was less wrong than I in my soul felt it was. One con- 
fessor told me when I went to him with a scruple that even if 
I were to have sublime contemplation such occasions and associa- 
tions would not be harmful to me. This happened toward the 
end of this period when by the mercy of God I was withdrawing 
more from great dangers; but I hadn't completely abandoned 
the occasions. Since my confessors saw my good desires and my 
devotion to prayer, they thought I was doing a great deal. But 
my soul understood that it was doing what it was obligated to 
do for Him to whom it owed so much. I consider it now a pity 
that so much happened and so little help was found anywhere, 
except in God, and that they gave it a great pretext for its 
pastimes and satisfactions by saying that these were licit. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

12. The torment I felt in hearing sermons was not small. I 
was very fond of them, so fond that if I saw someone preach 
well and with spirit, I felt a special love for that person, without 
striving for the love myself, so that I didn't know where it came 
from. Hardly ever did a sermon seem so bad to me that I didn't 
listen to it eagerly, even though according to others who heard 
it the preaching was not good. When it was good, the sermon 
was for me a very special recreation. After I had begun the prac- 
tice of prayer, speaking of God or hearing others speak of Him 
hardly ever tired me. On the one hand I found great comfort 
in sermons, while on the other I was tormented, for through them 
I understood that I wasn't what I should have been — not by a 
far cry. I begged the Lord to help me. But I must have failed, 
as it appears to me now, because I did not put all my trust in 
His Majesty and lose completely the trust I had in myself. I 
searched for a remedy, I made attempts, but I didn't understand 
that all is of little benefit if we do not take away completely the 
trust we have in ourselves and place it in God. 

I wanted to live (for I well understood that I was not living 
but was struggling with a shadow of death), but I had no one 
to give me life, and I was unable to catch hold of it. He who 
had the power to give it to me was right in not helping me, for 
so often had He brought me back to Himself; and so often had 
I abandoned Him. 

Chapter 9 

Treats of the means by which the Lord began to awaken her soul and give 
it light amid such thick darknesses and strengthen her virtues that she might 
not offend Him. 

WELL, MY SOUL now was tired; and, in spite of its desire, 
my wretched habits would not allow it rest. It happened 
to me that one day entering the oratory I saw a statue they had 
borrowed for a certain feast to be celebrated in the house. It 
represented the much wounded Christ 1 and was very devo- 
tional so that beholding it I was utterly distressed in seeing Him 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 9 


that way, for it well represented what He suffered for us. I felt 
so keenly aware of how poorly I thanked Him for those wounds 
that, it seems to me, my heart broke. Beseeching Him to 
strengthen me once and for all that I might not offend Him, 
I threw myself down before Him with the greatest outpouring 
of tears. 

2. I was very devoted to the glorious Magdalene and frequently 
thought about her conversion, especially when I received Com- 
munion. For since I knew the Lord was certainly present there 
within me, I, thinking that He would not despise my tears, placed 
myself at His feet. And I didn't know what I was saying (He 
did a great deal who allowed me to shed them for Him, since 
I so quickly forgot that sentiment); and I commended myself 
to this glorious saint that she might obtain pardon for me. 

3. But in this latter instance with this statue I am speaking 
of, it seems to me I profited more, for I was very distrustful of 
myself and placed all my trust in God. I think I then said that 
I would not rise from there until He granted what I was beg- 
ging Him for. I believe certainly this was beneficial to me, 
because from that time I went on improving. 

4. This is the method of prayer I then used: since I could not 
reflect discursively with the intellect, I strove to represent Christ 
within me, and it did me greater good — in my opinion — to repre- 
sent Him in those scenes where I saw Him more alone. It seemed 
to me that being alone and afflicted, as a person in need, He 
had to accept me. I had many simple thoughts like these. 

The scene of His prayer in the garden, especially, was a com- 
fort to me; I strove to be His companion there. If I could, I 
thought of the sweat and agony He had undergone in that place. 
I desired to wipe away the sweat He so painfully experienced, 
but I recall that I never dared to actually do it, since my sins 
appeared to me so serious. I remained with Him as long as my 
thoughts allowed me to, for there were many distractions that 
tormented me. Most nights, for many years before going to bed 
when I commended myself to God in preparation for sleep, I 
always pondered for a little while this episode of the prayer in 
the garden. I did this even before I was a nun since I was told 
that one gains many indulgences by doing so. I believe my soul 


St. Teresa of Avila 

gained a great deal through this custom because I began to prac- 
tice prayer without knowing what it was; and the custom became 
so habitual that I did not abandon it, just as I did not fail to 
make the sign of the cross before sleeping. 

5. But to return to what I was saying about the torment my 
distracting thoughts gave me, this torment is a characteristic of 
the method in which you proceed without discursive reflection 
on the part of the intellect. For such a method requires that the 
soul be very advanced, or lost; I mean lost with regard to 
discursive reflection. In its progress it advances a great deal 
because it advances in love. But to reach this point the cost is 
very high, except in the case of persons whom the Lord desires 
to bring quickly to the prayer of quiet, for I know some. Those 
who follow this path of no discursive reflection will find that a 
book can be a help for recollecting oneself quickly. It helped me 
also to look at fields, or water, or flowers. In these things I found 
a remembrance of the Creator. I mean that they awakened and 
recollected me and served as a book and reminded me of my 
ingratitude and sins. As for heavenly or sublime things, my 
intellect was so coarse that it could never, never imagine them 
until the Lord in another way showed them to me. 

6. I had such little ability to represent things with my intellect 
that if I hadn't seen the things my imagination was not of use 
to me, as it is to other persons who can imagine things and thus 
recollect themselves. 1 could only think about Christ as He was 
as man, but never in such a way that I could picture Him within 
myself no matter how much I read about His beauty or how 
many images I saw of Him. I was like those who are blind or 
in darkness; they speak with a person and see that that person 
is with them because they know with certainty that the other 
is there (I mean they understand and believe this, but they do 
not see the other); such was the case with me when I thought 
of our Lord. This was the reason I liked images so much. 
Unfortunate are those who through their own fault lose this great 
good. It indeed appears that they do not love the Lord, for if 
they loved Him they would rejoice to see a portrait of Him, just 
as here on earth it really gives joy to see one whom you deeply 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 9 


7. At this time they gave me The Confessions of St. Augustine. 2 
It seems the Lord ordained this, because I had not tried to pro- 
cure a copy, nor had I ever seen one. I am very fond of St. 
Augustine, because the convent where I stayed as a lay person 
belonged to his order; 5 and also because he had been a sinner, 
for I found great consolation in sinners whom, after having been 
sinners, the Lord brought back to Himself. It seemed to me I 
could find help in them and that since the Lord had pardoned 
them He could also pardon me. But there was one thing that 
left me inconsolable, as I have mentioned, and that was that the 
Lord called them only once, and they did not turn back and fall 
again; whereas in my case I had turned back so often that I was 
worn out from it. But by considering the love He bore me, I 
regained my courage, for I never lost confidence in His mercy; 
in myself, I lost it many times. 

8. Oh, God help me, how it frightens me, my soul's blind- 
ness despite so much assistance from God! It made me fearful 
to see how little I could do by myself and how bound I became 
so that I was unable to resolve to give myself entirely to God. 

As I began to read the Confessions , it seemed to me I saw myself 
in them. I began to commend myself very much to this glorious 
saint. When I came to the passage where he speaks about his 
conversion and read how he heard that voice in the garden, 4 it 
only seemed to me, according to what I felt in my heart, that 
it was I the Lord called. I remained for a long time totally dis- 
solved in tears and feeling within myself utter distress and 
weariness. Oh, how a soul suffers, God help me, by losing the 
freedom it should have in being itself; and what torments it 
undergoes! I marvel now at how I could have lived in such great 
affliction. May God be praised who gave me the life to rise up 
from a death so deadly. 

9. It seemed to me my soul gained great strength from the 
Divine Majesty and that He must have heard my cries and taken 
pity on so many tears. 3 The inclination to spend more time 
with Him began to grow. I started to shun the occasions of sin, 
because when they were avoided I then returned to loving His 
Majesty. In my opinion, I clearly understood that I loved Him; 
but I did not understand as I should have what true love of God 


St. Teresa of Avila 

consists in. 

It doesn't seem to me I was yet finished preparing myself to 
desire to serve Him when His Majesty began to favor me again. 
Apparently, what others strive for with great labor, the Lord 
gains for me only through my desire to receive it, for He was 
now, in these later years, giving me delights and favors. I did 
not beseech Him to give me tenderness of devotion, never would 
I have dared to do that. I only begged Him to pardon my great 
sins and to give me the grace not to offend Him. Since I saw 
that my sins were so great, I would never have had the boldness 
to desire favors or delights. Clearly, it seems, He took pity on 
me and showed great mercy in admitting me before Him and 
bringing me into His presence, for I saw that if He Himself had 
not accomplished this, I would not have come. 

Only once in my life, when in great dryness, do I recall hav- 
ing asked for spiritual delight. And when I became aware of what 
I was doing, I got so confused that the very annoyance at see- 
ing myself with such lack of humility brought about what I had 
dared to ask for. I knew well that it was permissible to ask for 
this, but it seemed to me that such a request was licit for those 
who were prepared and determined to do every good and not 
to offend God. It seemed to me that the tears I shed were 
womanish and without strength since I did not obtain by them 
what I desired. But still, I believe they were valuable for me 
because, as I say, especially after these two instances 5 of such 
great compunction and weariness of heart over my sins, I began 
to give myself more to prayer and to become less involved with 
things that did me harm, although I still did not avoid them com- 
pletely; but — as I say — God was helping me turn aside from 
them. Since His Majesty was not waiting for anything other than 
some preparedness in me, the spiritual graces went on increas- 
ing in the manner I shall tell. It is not a customary thing for 
the Lord to give them save to those with greater purity of 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 10 


Chapter 10 

Begins to tell about the favors the Lord granted her in prayer, of how we 
ourselves can help, and how important it is that we understand the graces 
the Lord gives us. Asks the one to whom this is sent to keep secret what 
she writes about from here on, for they commanded her to speak so personally 
about the favors the Lord grants her. 1 

I SOMETIMES EXPERIENCED, as I said/ although very 
briefly, the beginning of what I will now speak about. It used 
to happen, when I represented Christ within me in order to place 
myself in His presence, or even while reading, that a feeling of 
the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that 
I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed 
in Him. This did not occur after the manner of a vision. I believe 
they call the experience "mystical theology." The soul is suspended 
in such a way that it seems to be completely outside itself. The 
will loves; the memory, it seems to me, is almost lost. For, as 
I say, the intellect does not work, but it is as though amazed 
by all it understands because God desires that it understand, 
with regard to the things His Majesty represents to it, that it 
understands nothing. 

2. Before this, I felt very habitually a tenderness that, it seems 
to me, can in part be acquired, a favor that is neither entirely 
of the senses nor entirely spiritual. Everything is given by God, 
but it seems we can help a great deal to receive this tenderness 
by considering our lowliness and the ingratitude we have shown 
toward God, the many things He did for us, His Passion with 
such heavy sorrows, His life so afflicted, and by delighting in 
the sight of His works, His grandeur, how He loves us, and in 
the many other things that those who truly want to improve 
spiritually are often able to find all around them, even though 
they do not seek to do so deliberately. If some love accompanies 
this activity, the soul is gladdened, the heart is touched with 
tenderness, and tears begin to flow. Sometimes it seems we draw 
forth the tears through our own effort, at other times it seems 
the Lord grants them to us, since we are unable to resist them. 
Apparently, His Majesty repays us for that bit of care with a 


St. Teresa of Avila 

gift as great as is the consolation He gives a soul when it sees 
that it weeps for so great a Lord. And I am not surprised, for 
he surpasses reason in bestowing consolation: He comforts here; 
He gladdens there. 

3. It seems to me the following comparison that now comes 
to mind is a good one, for these joys of prayer must be like those 
of heaven. Since souls do not see more than what the Lord, in 
conformity with their merits, desires them to see — and they see 
their few merits — they are happy with the place they have, even 
though there is the greatest difference in heaven between one 
joy and another. This difference is far more than the difference 
here below between some spiritual joys and others, which is very 

Truly, in the beginning when God grants it this favor, it almost 
seems to the soul that there is nothing more for it to desire, and 
it considers itself well repaid for all its service. It is more than 
right, for one of these tears that, as I say, we almost acquire 
ourselves — although without God nothing is accomplished — can- 
not be bought in my opinion with all the trials in the world; for 
much is gained by these tears. And what greater gain is there 
than to have evidence that we are pleasing God? Thus they who 
reach this point praise God much and know themselves to be 
very indebted. For now it seems, if they don't turn back, that 
they are chosen for God's own house and kingdom. 

4. Let them pay no attention to the kinds of humility, which 
I will discuss later, 3 in which it seems to some that it is humili- 
ty not to acknowledge that God is giving them gifts. Let us 
understand most clearly the real fact: God gives them to us 
without any merit on our part. And let us thank His Majesty 
for them, because, if we do not acknowledge we are receiving 
them, we will not awaken ourselves to love. And it is very cer- 
tain that while we see more clearly that we are rich, over and 
above knowing that we are poor, more benefit comes to us, and 
even more authentic humility. Anything else would amount to 
intimidating the spirit, making it believe that it isn't capable of 
great blessings, so that when the Lord begins to give them to 
it, it starts to get frightened about vainglory. Let us believe that 
He who gives us the blessings will give us the grace so that when 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 10 


the devil begins to tempt us in this way we shall understand and 
have the fortitude to resist — I mean, if we walk with sincerity 
before God, aiming at pleasing Him alone and not people. 

5. It is very obvious that we love others more when we often 
recall the good works they do for us. If it is permissible, and 
therefore meritorious, to keep always in mind that we have our 
being from God, that He created us from nothing and sustains 
us, and all the other benefits flowing from His death and trials — 
for long before He created us He obtained them for each one 
now living — why would it not be permissible for me to see and 
understand and often consider that I ordinarily used to speak 
about vanities and that now the Lord has given me the desire 
to speak of nothing but Him? Here is a jewel by which, in recall- 
ing that it is a gift and that we possess it, we are compelled to 
love the giver. For love is the genuine fruit of prayer when prayer 
is rooted in humility. What then will happen when they see in 
their power other than precious jewels, like those some servants 
of God have already received, of contempt of the world and even 
of themselves? It is clear that they must consider themselves more 
indebted and obliged to serve and to understand that we have 
no right to any of this, and to know the generosity of the Loid. 
For to a soul as poor and wretched and without merit as mine, 
for which the first of these jewels was enough, and more than 
enough, He desired to grant more riches; more than I knew how 
to desire. 

6. It is necessary to draw out strength again for service and 
to strive not to be ungrateful. For the Lord gives these riches 
under this condition that if we do not use well the treasure and 
high state in which He places us, He will take them from us and 
we shall be left poorer. And His Majesty will give the jewels 
to those who will display them and gain profit from them, both 
for themselves and for others. 

For how can people benefit and share their gifts lavishly if 
they do not understand that they are rich? In my opinion, it 
is impossible because of our nature for those who don't know 
they are favored by God to have enthusiasm for great things. 
We are so miserable and so inclined to earthly things that those 
who do not understand they have a pledge of heavenly things 


St. Teresa of Avila 

will find it hard to abhor in fact and with detachment everything 
here below. By these gifts, the Lord gives us the fortitude that 
by our sins we are losing. If people don't have, along with a liv- 
ing faith, some pledge of the love God has for them, they will 
not desire to be despised and belittled by everyone and have all 
the other great virtues that the perfect possess. For our nature 
is so dead that we go after what we see in the present. Thus these 
very favors are what awaken faith and strengthen it. Now it could 
be that, since I am so wretched I am judging others by myself, 
others may find they have need of no more than the truth of 
faith in order to perform very perfect works — and I, being so 
miserable, have had need of everything. 

7. They will say whether this is so or not. I am speaking about 
what has happened to me, as I have been ordered to do. And 
if what I say isn't worthwhile, the one I'm sending it to will tear 
it up, 4 for he will understand what is of little worth better than 
I. I beseech him for the love of the Lord to publish what I have 
said up to this point about my wretched life. I now give this 
permission to him and to all my confessors, for he to whom this 
is being sent is one of them. And if they desire they may publish 
it while I am still alive that the world may no longer be deceived, 
for it thinks there is some good in me. And most certainly and 
truly I say, according to what I now know about myself, that 
their publishing this would give me great consolation. 

As for what I say from here on, I do not give this permission; 
nor do I desire, if they should show it to someone, that they tell 
who it is who has experienced these things, or who has written 
this. As a result, I will not mention my name or the name of 
anyone else, but I will write everything as best I can so as to 
remain unknown, and this I ask for the love of God. These 
persons so learned and serious in mind will suffice for giving 
credibility to any good thing if the Lord gives me the grace to 
say it, because if it is good it will be His and not mine. For I 
am without learning or a good life, without instruction from a 
learned man or from any other person (for only those who com- 
manded me to write this know that I am writing it, and at pre- 
sent they are not here), and almost stealing time, and regretful- 
ly because it prevents me from spinning and this is a poor house 

The Book of Her Life- Chap. 10 


with many things to be done. For even though the Lord may 
have given me greater capability and memory so that I might 
thereby have been able to profit from what I have heard or read, 
I have retained very little of it. Thus if I should say something 
good, the Lord wills it for some good; what is bad will be from 
me, and your Reverence will strike it out. Neither in the one 
instance nor in the other would there be any gain in my telling 
my name. It is clear that during my life no good should be said 
of me. After my death there would be no reason for doing so; 
but rather goodness would lose prestige, and no credit would 
be given to it for being said of so wretched and base a person. 

8. And with the thought that your Reverence will do this that 
I'm asking you, for the love of the Lord, and that others who 
read it also will do so, I am writing freely. Otherwise I would 
have great scruples, with the exception of writing about my sins, 
for in such a matter I have no scruples. As for everything else, 
just being a woman is enough to have my wings fall off— how 
much more being both a woman and wretched as well. And thus 
what amounts to more than simply giving an account of my life, 
your Reverence may judge — since you so importuned that I write 
some statement about the favors granted me by God in prayer — 
as to its conformity with the truths of our holy Catholic faith. 
And if it should not be in conformity with them, your Reverence 
may burn it immediately, for I would submit to it being burned. 
And I shall speak of what is taking place in me so that when 
it is conformed to this faith, it may bring some profit to your 
Reverence; and if it is not, you will free my soul from illusion 
so that the devil may not be gaining where it seems to me that 
I am gaining. For the Lord well knows, as I shall afterward 
say, 1 that I have always tried to find someone who would give 
me light. 

9. As much as I desire to speak clearly about these matters 
of prayer, they will be really obscure for anyone who has not 
had experience. I'll speak of some things that as I understand 
them are obstacles to progress along this path and other things 
in which there is danger. These things I'll say from what the 
Lord has taught me through experience and through discussions 
with very learned men and persons who have lived the spiritual 


St. Teresa of Avila 

life for many years. It will be seen that within only twenty-seven 
years in which I have practiced prayer His Majesty has given 
me the experience — along with my walking amid so many 
stumbling blocks and so poorly on this path — that for others took 
forty-seven or thirty-seven years; they journeyed in penance and 
always in virtue. 

May His Majesty be blessed for everything and served by me 
on account of who He is. For my Lord knows well that in writing 
this I have no other aim than that He be praised and extolled 
a little when it is seen that in so filthy and malodorous a dungheap 
He should make a garden with so many delicate flowers. May 
His Majesty be pleased that through my own fault I do not pull 
them up again and let the garden return to what it was. I beg 
for the love of God that your Reverence pray for this since you 
know more clearly what I am than you have allowed me to tell 

Chapter 11 

Tells of the reason for the failure to reach the perfect love of God in a short 
time. Begins to explain through a comparison four degrees of prayer. Goes 
on to deal here with the first degree. 1 The doctrine is very beneficial for 
beginners and for those who do not have consolations in prayer. 

WELL, LET US SPEAK NOW of those who are begin- 
ning to be servants of love. This doesn't seem to me to 
mean anything else than to follow resolutely by means of this 
path of prayer Him who has loved us so much. To be a servant 
of love is a dignity so great that it delights me in a wonderful 
way to think about it. For servile fear soon passes away if in 
this first state we proceed as we ought. O Lord of my soul and 
my good! When a soul is determined to love You by doing what 
it can to leave all and occupy itself better in this divine love, 
why don't You desire that it enjoy soon the ascent to the posses- 
sion of perfect love? I have poorly expressed myself. I should 
have mentioned and complained that we ourselves do not desire 
this. The whole fault is ours if we don't soon reach the enjoy- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 11 


ment of a dignity so great, for the perfect attainment of this true 
love of God brings with it every blessing. We are so miserly and 
so slow in giving ourselves entirely to God that since His Ma- 
jesty does not desire that we enjoy something as precious as this 
without paying a high price, we do not fully prepare ourselves. 

2. I see clearly that there is nothing on earth with which one 
can buy so wonderful a blessing. But if we do what we can to 
avoid becoming attached to any earthly thing and let all our care 
and concern be with heavenly things, and if within a short time 
we prepare ourselves completely, as some of the saints did, I 
believe without a doubt that in a very short time this blessing 
will be given to us. But it seems to us that we are giving all to 
God, whereas the truth of the matter is that we are paying God 
the rent or giving Him the fruits and keeping for ourselves the 
ownership and the root. We resolve to be poor — and this is very 
meritorious — but then very often turn back to being anxious and 
diligent about possessing not only the necessities but superfluities 
as well and about winning friends who might provide these things 
for us. And we are thereby placed in a state of greater anxiety — 
and perhaps danger — about not being in want than we were 
before when we had our own possessions. 

It also appears to us that we are renouncing our status when 
we become religious or that we renounce it when we begin to 
live a spiritual life and follow the path of perfection. No sooner 
is some little point of etiquette concerning our status brought 
up than we forget we have already offered it to God; and we 
desire to take it right back out of His hands, so to speak, after 
having made Him, as it seemed, the Lord of our wills. So it is 
with everything else. 

3. What a charming way to seek the love of God! And then 
we desire it with our hands full, as they say. We have our at- 
tachments since we do not strive to direct our desires to a good 
effect and raise them up from the earth completely; but to have 
many spiritual consolations along with attachments is in- 
congruous, nor does it seem to me that the two can get along 
together. Since we do not succeed in giving up everything at 
once, this treasure as a result is not given to us all at once. May 
it please the Lord that drop by drop He may give it to us, even 


St. Teresa of Avila 

though it cost us all the trials in the world. 

4. Indeed a great mercy does He bestow on anyone to whom 
He gives the grace and courage to resolve to strive for this good 
with every ounce of energy. For God does not deny Himself to 
anyone who perseveres. Little by little He will measure out the 
courage sufficient to attain this victory. I say "courage" because 
there are so many things the devil puts in the minds of beginners 
to prevent them in fact from starting out on this path. For he 
knows the damage that will be done to him in losing not only 
that one soul but many others. If beginners with the assistance 
of God struggle to reach the summit of perfection, I believe they 
will never go to heaven alone; they will always lead many people 
along after them. Like good captains they will give whoever 
marches in their company to God. The devil puts so many 
dangers and difficulties into the beginner's head that no little 
courage, but a great deal, is necessary in order not to turn 
back — and a great deal of assistance from God. 

5. Speaking now of the initial stages of those who are 
determined to seek out this good and embark on this enterprise 
(for I shall speak afterward of the other stages I began to mention 
in regard to mystical theology, 2 which I believe it is called), the 
greatest labor is in the beginning because it is the beginner who 
works while the Lord gives the increase. In the other degrees 
of prayer the greatest thing is enjoying; although whether in the 
beginning, the middle, or the end, all bear their crosses even 
though these crosses be different. For all who follow Christ, if 
they don't want to get lost, must walk along this path that He 
trod. And blessed be the trials that even here in this life are so 
superabundantly repaid. 

6. I shall have to make use of some comparison, although I 
should like to excuse myself from this since I am a woman and 
write simply what they ordered me to write. But these spiritual 
matters for anyone who like myself has not gone through studies 
are so difficult to explain. I shall have to find some mode of 
explaining myself, and it may be less often that I hit upon a good 
comparison. Seeing so much stupidity will provide some 
recreation for your Reverence. 

It seems now to me that I read or heard of this comparison — for 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 11 


since I have a bad memory, I don't know where or for what 
reason it was used,* but it will be all right for my purposes. 
Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord 
they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full 
of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants 
good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already 
done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and 
has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must 
strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take 
pains to water them so that they don't wither but come to bud 
and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide 
refreshment for this Lord of ours. Then He will often come to 
take delight in this garden and find His joy among these virtues. 

7. But let us see now how it must be watered so that we may 
understand what we have to do, the labor this will cost us, 
whether the labor is greater than the gain, and for how long it 
must last. It seems to me the garden can be watered in four ways. 
You may draw water from a well (which is for us a lot of work). 
Or you may get it by means of a water wheel and aqueducts 
in such a way that it is obtained by turning the crank of the water 
wheel. (I have drawn it this way sometimes — 4 the method in- 
volves less work than the other, and you get more water.) Or 
it may flow from a river or a stream. (The garden is watered 
much better by this means because the ground is more fully 
soaked, and there is no need to water so frequently — and much 
less work for the gardener.) Or the water may be provided by 
a great deal of rain. (For the Lord waters the garden without 
any work on our part — and this way is incomparably better than 
all the others mentioned.) 

8. Now, then, these four ways of drawing water in order to 
maintain this garden — because without water it will die — are 
what are important to me and have seemed applicable in ex- 
plaining the four degrees of prayer in which the Lord in His 
goodness has sometimes placed my soul. May it please His 
goodness that 1 manage to speak about them in a way beneficial 
for one of the persons 5 who ordered me to write this, because 
within four months the Lord has brought him further than I got 
in seventeen years. This person has prepared himself better, and 


St. Teresa of Avila 

so without any labor of his own the flower garden is watered 
with all these four waters, although the last is still not given ex- 
cept in drops. But he is advancing in such a way that soon he 
will be immersed in it, with the help of the Lord. And I shall 
be pleased if you laugh should this way of explaining the matter 
appear foolish. 

9. Beginners in prayer, we can say, are those who draw water 
from the w r ell. This involves a lot of work on their own part, 
as I have said. They must tire themselves in trying to recollect 
their senses. Since they are accustomed to being distracted, this 
recollection requires much effort. They need to get accustomed 
to caring nothing at all about seeing or hearing, to practicing 
the hours of prayer, and thus to solitude and withdrawal — and 
to thinking on their past life. Although these beginners and the 
others as well must often reflect upon their past, the extent to 
which they must do so varies, as I shall say afterward. In the 
beginning such reflection is even painful, for they do not fully 
understand whether or not they are repentant of their sins. If 
they are, they are then determined to serve God earnestly. They 
must strive to consider the life of Christ — and the intellect grows 
weary in doing this. 

These are the things we can do of ourselves, with the 
understanding that we do so by the help of God, for without 
this help as is already known we cannot have so much as a good 
thought. These things make up the beginning of fetching water 
from the well, and please God that it may be found. At least 
we are doing our part, for we are already drawing it out and 
doing what we can to water these flowers. God is so good that 
when for reasons His Majesty knows — perhaps for our greater 
benefit — the well is dry and we, like good gardeners, do what 
lies in our power, He sustains the garden without water and 
makes the virtues grow. Here by "water" I am referring to tears 
and when there are no tears to interior tenderness and feelings 
of devotion. 

JO. But what will they do here who see that after many days 
there is nothing but dryness, distaste, vapidness, and very little 
desire to come to draw water? So little is the desire to do this 
that if they don't recall that doing so serves and gives pleasure 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 11 


to the Lord of the garden, and if they aren't careful to preserve 
the merits acquired in this service (and even what they hope to 
gain from the tedious work of often letting the pail down into 
the well and pulling it back up without any water), they will aban- 
don everything. It will frequently happen to them that they will 
even be unable to lift their arms for this work and unable to get 
a good thought. This discursive work with the intellect is what 
is meant by fetching water from the well. 

But, as I am saying, what will the gardener do here? He will 
rejoice and be consoled and consider it the greatest favor to be 
able to work in the garden of so great an Emperor! Since he 
knows that this pleases the Lord and his intention must be not 
to please himself but to please the Lord, he gives the Lord much 
praise. For the Master has confidence in the gardener because 
He sees that without any pay he is so very careful about what 
he was told to do. This gardener helps Christ carry the cross 
and reflects that the Lord lived with it all during His life. He 
doesn't desire the Lord's kingdom here below or ever abandon 
prayer. And so he is determined, even though this dryness may 
last for his whole life, not to let Christ fall with the cross. The 
time will come when the Lord will repay him all at once. He 
doesn't fear that the labor is being wasted. He is serving a good 
Master whose eyes are upon him. He doesn't pay any attention 
to bad thoughts. He considers that the devil also represented 
them to St. Jerome in the desert. 7 

1 1 . These labors take their toll. Being myself one who endured 
them for many years (for when I got a drop of water from this 
sacred well I thought God was granting me a favor), I know that 
they are extraordinary. It seems to me more courage is necessary 
for them than for many other labors of this world. But I have 
seen clearly that God does not leave one, even in his life, without 
a large reward; because it is certainly true that one of those hours 
in which the Lord afterward bestowed on me a taste of Himself 
repaid, it seems to me, all the anguish I suffered in persevering 
for a long time in prayer. 

I am of the opinion that to some in the beginning and to others 
afterward the Lord often desires to give these torments and the 
many other temptations that occur in order to try His lovers and 


St. Teresa of Aviia 

know whether they will be able to drink the chalice and help 
Him carry the cross before He lays great treasures within them. 
I believe His Majesty desires to bring us along this way for our 
own good so that we may understand well what little we amount 
to. The favors that come afterward are of such great worth that 
He desires first that before He gives them to us we see by ex- 
perience our own worthlessness so that what happened to Lucifer 
will not happen to us. 

12. My Lord, what do You do but that which is for the greater 
good of the soul You understand now to be Yours and which 
places itself in Your power so as to follow You wherever You 
go, even to death on the cross, and is determined to help You 
bear it and not leave You alone with it? 

Those who see in themselves this determination have no 
reason, no reason whatsoever, to fear. Spiritual persons, you 
have no reason to be afflicted. Once you are placed in so high 
a degree as to desire to commune in solitude with God and aban- 
don the pastimes of the world, the most has been done. Praise 
His Majesty for that and trust in His goodness who never fails 
His friends. Conceal from your eyes the thought about why He 
gives devotion to one after such a few days and not to me after 
so many years. Let us believe that all is for our own greater good. 
Let His Majesty lead the way along the path He desires. We 
belong no longer to ourselves but to Him. He grants us a great 
favor in wanting us to desire to dig in His garden and be in the 
presence of its Lord who certainly is present with us. Should 
He desire that for some these plants and flowers grow by the 
water they draw, which He gives from this well, and for others 
without it, what difference does that make to me? Do, Lord, 
what You desire. May I not offend You. Don't let the virtues 
be lost, if You only out of Your goodness have already given 
me some. I desire to suffer, Lord, since You suffered. Let Your 
will be done in me in every way, and may it not please Your 
Majesty that something as precious as Your love be given to 
anyone who serves you only for the sake of consolations. 

13. It should be carefully noted — and I say this because I know 
it through experience — that the soul that begins to walk along 
this path of mental prayer with determination and that can sue- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 11 


ceed in paying little attention to whether this delight and 
tenderness is lacking or whether the Lord gives it (or to whether 
it has much consolation or no consolation) has travelled a great 
part of the way. However much it stumbles, it should not fear 
that it will turn back, because the building has been started on 
a solid foundation. This is true because the love of God does 
not consist in tears or in this delight and tenderness, which for 
the greater part we desire and find consolation in; but it con- 
sists in serving with justice and fortitude of soul and in humili- 
ty. Without such service it seems to me we would be receiving 
everything and giving nothing. 

14. In the case of a poor little woman like myself, weak and 
with hardly any fortitude, it seems to me fitting that God lead 
me with gifts, as He now does, so that I might be able to suffer 
some trials He has desired me to bear. But when I see servants 
of God, men of prominence, learning, and high intelligence make 
so much fuss because God doesn't give them devotion, it an- 
noys me to hear them. I do not mean that they shouldn't accept 
it if God gives it, and esteem it, because then His Majesty sees 
that this is appropriate. But when they don't have devotion, they 
shouldn't weary themselves. They should understand that since 
His Majesty doesn't give it, it isn't necessary; and they should 
be masters of themselves. They should believe that their desire 
for consolation is a fault. I have experienced and seen this. They 
should believe it denotes imperfection together with a lack of 
freedom of spirit and the courage to accomplish something. 

15. Although I lay great stress on this because it is very im- 
portant that beginners have such freedom and determination, 
I am not saying it so much for beginners as for others. For there 
are many who begin, yet they never reach the end. I believe 
this is due mainly to a failure to embrace the cross from the begin- 
ning; thinking they are doing nothing, they become afflicted. 
When the intellect ceases to work, they cannot bear it. But it 
is then perhaps that their will is being strengthened and fortified, 
although they may not be aware of this. 

We should think that the Lord is not concerned about these 
inabilities. Even though they seem to us to be faults, they are 
not. His Majesty already knows our misery and our wretched 


St. Teresa of Avila 

nature better than we do ourselves, and He knows that these 
souls now desire to think of Him and love Him always. This 
determination is what He desires. The other affliction that we 
bring upon ourselves serves for nothing else than to disquiet the 
soul, and if it was incapable before of engaging in prayer for 
one hour, it will be so now for four. Very often this incapacity 
comes from some bodily disorder. I have a great deal of 
experience in this matter, and I know that what I say is true 
because I have considered it carefully and discussed it afterward 
with spiritual persons. We are so miserable that our poor little 
imprisoned soul shares in the miseries of the body; the changes 
in the weather and the rotating of the bodily humors often have 
the result that without their fault souls cannot do what they desire, 
but suffer in every way. If they seek to force themselves more 
during these times, the bad condition becomes worse and lasts 
longer. They should use discernment to observe when these 
bodily disorders may be the cause, and not smother the poor 
soul. They should understand that they are sick. The hour of 
prayer ought to be changed, and often this change will have to 
continue for some days. Let them suffer this exile as best thev 
can. It is a great misfortune to a soul that loves God to see that 
it lives in this misery and cannot do what it desires because it 
has as wretched a guest as is this body. 

16.1 have said they should use discernment because sometimes 
the devil is the cause. And so it isn't always good to abandon 
prayer when there is great distraction and disturbance in the 
intellect just as it isn't always good to torture the soul into doing 
what it cannot do. 

There are other exterior things like works of charity and 
spiritual reading, although at times it will not even be fit for 
these. Let it then serve the body out of love of God — because 
many other times the body serves the soul — and engage in some 
spiritual pastimes such as holy conversations, provided they are 
truly so, or going to the country, as the confessor might counsel. 
Experience is a great help in all, for it teaches what is suitable 
for us; and God can be served in everything. His yoke is easy, 8 
and it is very helpful not to drag the soul along, as they say, 
but f o lead it gently for the sake of its greater advantage. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 12 


17. So I return to the advice — and even if I repeat it many 
times this doesn't matter — that it is very important that no one 
be distressed or afflicted over dryness or noisy and distracting 
thoughts. If people wish to gain freedom of spirit and not be 
always troubled, let them begin by not being frightened by the 
cross, and they will see how the Lord also helps them carry it 
and they will gain satisfaction and profit from everything. For, 
clearly, if the well is dry, we cannot put water into it. True, we 
must not become neglectful; when there is water we should draw 
it out because then the Lord desires to multiply the virtues by 
this means. 

Chapter 12 

Continues the discussion of this first stage. Tells about how far we can 
get, with the help of God, through our own efforts, and about the harm 
that results when the spirit desires to ascend to supernatural things before 
the Lord grants them. ' . 

WHAT I TRIED TO EXPLAIN in the previous chap- 
ters—although I digressed a great deal in speaking of 
other things since mentioning them seemed to me very 
necessary — was the work we can do through our own efforts and 
how in obtaining this initial devotion we can help ourselves in 
some way. For in thinking about and carefully examining what 
the Lord suffered for us, we are moved to compassion; and this 
sorrow and the resulting tears bring delight. In thinking about 
the glory we hope for, the love the Lord bore us, and His 
resurrection, we are moved to a joy that is neither entirely 
spiritual nor entirely of the senses. But the joy is virtuous and 
the sorrow very meritorious. Virtue and merit are found in all 
the things that cause the devotion acquired partly by the intellect, 
even though this devotion could not be merited or obtained if 
God did not give it. It is very good for a soul that hasn't gone 
beyond this point to refrain from striving to ascend further. This 
should be kept in mind, for otherwise the soul wouldn't make 
progress but would suffer harm. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

2. In this state it can make many acts to awaken love, many 
resolutions to render God much service, and other acts in order 
to make the virtues grow, in accord with what is said in a book 
called The Art of Serving God, 1 which is a very good and ap- 
propriate book for those who are in this state in which the in- 
tellect is at work. The soul can place itself in the presence of 
Christ and grow accustomed to being inflamed with love for His 
sacred humanity. It can keep Him ever present and speak with 
Him, asking for its needs and complaining of its labors, being 
glad with Him in its enjoyments and not forgetting Him because 
of them, trying to speak to Him, not through written prayers 
but with words that conform to its desires and needs. 

This is an excellent way of making progress, and in a very 
short time. I consider that soul advanced who strives to remain 
in this precious company and to profit very much by it, and who 
truly comes to love this Lord to whom we owe so much. 

3. As a result, we shouldn't care at all about not having 
devotion — as I have said — but we ought to thank the Lord who 
allows us to be desirous of pleasing Him, even though our works 
may be weak. This method of keeping Christ present with us 
is beneficial in all stages and is a very safe means of advancing 
in the first degree of prayer, of reaching in a short time the sec- 
ond degree, and of walking secure against the dangers the devil 
can set up in the last degrees. 

4. Keeping Christ present is what we of ourselves can do. 
Whoever would desire to pass beyond this point and raise the 
spirit to an experience of spiritual consolations that are not given 
would lose both the one and the other, in my opinion; for these 
consolations belong to the supernatural. And if the intellect is 
not active, the soul is left very dry, like a desert. Since this edifice 
is built entirely on humility, the closer one comes to God the 
more progress there must be in this virtue; and if there is no 
progress in humility, everything is going to be ruined. It seems 
a kind of pride to desire of ourselves to ascend higher since, in 
view of what we are, God does too much just in drawing us near 
to Himself. 

It should not be thought that I am saying this about an as- 
cent by means of reflection to the high things of heaven or of 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 12 


God and oi the grander* > that are there and of His great wisdom. 
I never reflected in thi> way, because I did not have the ability, 
as I said, and I was so wretched. Even in respect to thinking 
of earthly things, God gave me the favor understand the truth 
that my reflecting on them would reqiu, e n«> small amount of 
boldness, and how much more lor heavenly things. Yet, other 
persons will draw profit from such reflection, especially if they 
have gone through studies. For in my opinion a background of 
studies is like a treasure to aid in this practice if the studies are 
accompanied by humility. Some days ago I saw the truth of this 
statement in the case of a few learned men.'* They began only 
a short time ago, and they have advanced very far. This makes 
me most anxious that many learned men would become spiritual 
men, as I shall say afterward. 4 

5. What I say about not ascending to God unless He raises 
one up is language of the spirit. He who has had some experience 
will understand me, for I don't know how to describe this being 
raised up if it isn't understood through experience. In mystical 
theology, which I began to describe/' the intellect ceases to 
work because God suspends it, as I shall explain afterward if 
I know how and He gives me His help to do so. Taking it upon 
oneself to stop and suspend thought is what I mean should not 
be done; nor should we cease to work with the intellect, because 
otherwise we would be left like cold simpletons and be doing 
neither one thing nor the other. When the Lord suspends the 
intellect and causes it to stop, He Himself gives it that which 
holds its attention and makes it marvel; and without reflection 
it understands more in the space of a Creed than we can under- 
stand with all our earthly diligence in many years. Trying to 
keep the soul's facul* ies busy and thinking you can make them 
be quiet is foolish. 

And I say again, even though it may not be understood, this 
effort to suspend the intellect is not very humble. Although there 
may be no fault, there is no lack of a penalty; labor will be wasted, 
and the soul will be left with some little frustration, as in the 
case of a person who when about to leap forward is pulled back 
by someone else. For now, seemingly, the soul has used its energy 
and finds that it hasn't achieved what it wanted to achieve with 


St. Teresa of Avila 

it. And whoever desires to observe will see in the small gain that 
results this tiny lack of humility I mentioned. For humility has 
an excellent feature: when it is present in a work, that work does 
not leave in the soul a feeling of frustration. 

It seems to me I have explained this matter, but perhaps I've 
made it clear only to myself. May the Lord by means of ex- 
perience open the eyes of those who read this; no matter how 
little such experience may be, they will soon understand. 

6. Many years passed by in which I read a lot of things and 
didn't understand anything of what I read. For a long time, even 
though God favored me, I didn't know what words to use to ex- 
plain His favors; and this was no small trial. In a way amazing 
to me, His Majesty when He desires teaches me everything in 
a moment. 

One thing I can truthfully say: although I spoke with many 
spiritual persons who wanted to explain what the Lord was giv- 
ing me so that I would be able to speak about it, my dullness 
was truly so great that their explanations benefited me neither 
little nor much. Or maybe, since His Majesty has always been 
my Master, it was the Lord's desire that I have no one else to 
thank. May He be blessed forever because it is very disconcert- 
ing for me to speak in all truth about His favors. Without my 
desiring or asking (for in this matter of understanding these favors 
I have by no means been curious — it would have been a virtue 
to have been so — as I have been in regard to other vanities), 
God gave me in a moment completely clear understanding so 
that I knew how to explain His favor in a way that amazed me 
more than it did my confessors; for I understood better than they 
my own dullness. This clear understanding was given me a lit- 
tle while ago, and so what the Lord has not taught me I do not 
strive to know unless it be something touching upon matters of 

7. Once again I counsel that it is very important for the spirit 
not to ascend unless the Lord raise it up. What this statement 
means is quite apparent. It would be especially bad for women 
to try to raise up the spirit because the devil would be able to 
cause some illusion; although I am certain the Lord would not 
allow any harm to come to someone who strives humbly to reach 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 13 


Him. On the contrary, such a person would draw out more 
benefit and gain where the devil thought he could bring her to 

Since this path of beginners is much travelled and the counsels 
I have given are very important, I have enlarged on them very 
much. They have been written of so much better by others, and 
I confess that I have written this with a great deal of embarrass- 
ment and shame although not with as much as I should have. 

May God be blessed for everything, who desires and consents 
that someone like myself should speak about His graces, so lofty 
and so sublime. 

Chapter 13 

Continues with this first state and gives advice concerning some tempta- 
tions the devil at times causes. The advice is very helpful. 

IT HAS OCCURRED TO ME to speak about some temp- 
tations I have observed in beginners — I myself have had 
some — and to give certain advice that to me seems necessary. 

Now strive in the beginning to walk in joy and freedom, for 
there are some persons who think their devotion will go away 
if they become a little distracted. It is good to walk in fear of 
self so as to avoid trusting oneself either little or much when enter- 
ing into an occasion where God is usually offended. This fear 
is most necessary until we are whole in virtue. If a temptation 
comes from human nature, there are few who can consider 
themselves so strong as to be negligent. Always, as long as we 
live, even for the sake of humility, it is good to know our 
miserable nature. But, as I said, 1 there are many reasons why 
it is permitted to take recreation — even so as to be able to return 
with greater strength to prayer. Discretion is required in 

2. Have great confidence, for it is necessary not to hold back 
one's desires, but to believe in God that if we try we shall little 
by little, even though it may not be soon, reach the state the 
saints did with His help. For if they had never determined to 


St. Teresa of Avila 

desire and seek this state little by little in practice they would 
never have mounted so high. His Majesty wants this determina- 
tion, and He is a friend of courageous souls if they walk in humili- 
ty and without trusting in self. I have not seen any cowardly 
soul or any of these who under the pretext of humility remain 
along the bottom of this path who do not take many years to 
advance as far as these courageous ones do in a few. I marvel 
at how important it is to be courageous in striving for great things 
along this path. For though the soul is not yet strong enough, 
it nonetheless takes flight and goes very high although like a lit- 
tle fledgling it soon tires and stops. 

3. In the past I frequently kept in mind St. Paul's words that 
all things can be done in God. I understood clearly that of myself 
I couldn't do anything. Understanding this helped me very much; 
and also what St. Augustine says; give me, Lord, what You com- 
mand, and command what You desire. I often thought that St. Peter 
didn't lose anything when he threw himself into the sea, even 
though he grew frightened afterward. 2 These first acts of deter- 
mination are very important, although in this initial stage it is 
necessary to hold back a little and be bound by discretion and 
the opinion of a spiritual master. But souls should be careful 
that he isn't the kind that will teach them to be toads or that 
will be satisfied in merely showing them how to catch little lizards. 
Let humility always go first so as to understand that this strength 
does not come from ourselves. 

4. But it is necessary that we know what this humility is like. 
I believe the devil harms people who practice prayer and prevents 
them from advancing by causing them to misunderstand humili- 
ty. He makes it appear to us that it's pride to have great desires 
and want to imitate the saints and long to be martyrs. Then he 
tells us or causes us to think that since we are sinners the deeds 
of the saints are for our admiration, not our imitation. This I 
admit too. But we must distinguish what is to be admired from 
what is to be imitated. It wouldn't be good for weak and sickly 
people to take up much fasting and harsh penance and go off 
to desert places where they could neither sleep nor have anything 
to eat, or for them to do similar things. But we should think 
that we can with God's help strive to have great contempt for 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 13 


the world, disesteem of honor, and detachment from our posses- 
sions. We have such stingy hearts that it seems to us we're go- 
ing to lose the earth if we desire to neglect the body a little for 
the sake of the spirit. Then it seems to be a help toward recollec- 
tion to be secure in the possession of necessities because con- 
cern about these necessities is a disturbance to prayer. It makes 
me sad that we have so little confidence in God and so much 
self love that these concerns should disturb us. And so it is that 
where the spirit is prospering as poorly as this a few trifles are 
as bad a trial to us as other trials caused by great and very im- 
portant things. And yet in our judgment we presume that we 
are spiritual! 

5. It seems to me now that this manner of procedure is a desire 
to reconcile body and soul so as to preserve one's rest here below 
and enjoy God up above. And if we walk in justice and cling 
to virtue, this will come about — but we would be advancing at 
the speed of a hen! Never in this way will one reach freedom 
of spirit. This is a very good way it seems to me for those who 
are in the married state and must live in conformity with their 
calling. But for the other state, in no way do I desire such kind 
of progress nor will anyone convince me it is good; for I have 
tried it; and I would never have moved if the Lord in His 
goodness had not taught me another shortcut. 

6. Although in this matter of desires I have always had great 
ones, I strove for what I have mentioned:^ both to practice 
prayer and to live for my own pleasures. I believe that if I might 
have had someone to make me fly, I would have turned the 
desires into deeds more quickly. But on account of our sins, so 
few and so rare are the spiritual masters who are not excessive- 
ly discreet in these matters that I believe it is one of the main 
reasons why beginners do not advance more rapidly to high 
perfection. For the Lord never fails, nor should He be blamed. 
We are the failures and miserable ones. 

7. Also we can imitate the saints in seeking solitude and silence 
and many other virtues that will not kill these woeful bodies that 
seek so concertedly to take away these virtues in order to 
disconcert the soul; and the devil does a great deal to incapacitate 
us when he sees a little fear. He wants no more than to make 


St. Teresa of Avila 

us think that everything is going to kill us and injure our health. 
Even tears, he causes us to think, will make us go blind. I went 
through this, and so I know. I don't understand what better sight 
or health we can desire than to lose them for a reason like this. 
Since I am so sickly, I was always tied down without being worth 
anything until I determined to pay no attention to the body or 
to my health. Now what I do doesn't amount to much; but since 
God desired that I understand this trick of the devil, who put 
the thought in my head that I would lose my health, I said: What 
difference does it make if I die; or at the thought of rest, I 
answered: I no longer need rest but the cross; and so with other 
thoughts. I have seen clearly that on very many occasions, even 
though I am in fact very sickly, that it was a temptation from 
the devil or from my own laziness — for afterward when I wasn't 
so cared for and pampered, I had much better health. 

So it is very important in the initial stages of prayer not to 
be intimidated by thoughts; and believe me in this matter because 
I know it through experience. And that others might learn from 
my difficulties, I can even be of benefit to them by telling these 
faults of mine. 

8. Another temptation is then very common. Since they begin 
to enjoy the serenity and gain that comes, they desire everyone 
else to be very spiritual. To desire this is not wrong. Striving 
to bring it about could have unhappy results if there is not a 
lot of discretion and simulation, doing so in such a way that one 
does not appear to be teaching. Whoever should have to work 
toward something beneficial in this area must have strong vir- 
tues so as not to give temptation to others. 

This happened to me — and so I understand it — when, as I 
said, 4 I strove to get others to practice prayer. Since on the one 
hand they heard me speak wonderful things about the great good 
contained in the practice of prayer and on the other hand they 
observed my great poverty in respect to the virtues, I believe 
I was a source of temptation and confusion for them. And with 
every reason! Afterward they finally told me they didn't know 
how the one was compatible with the other. And the reason for 
their considering what in itself was wrong to be all right was 
that they saw that I who they thought was good sometimes did it. 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 13 


9. And this confusion is the work of the devil, for apparently 
he makes use of the good virtues we have to authorize as much 
as he can the evil he is pursuing. For, no matter how small it 
may be, when there is question of a community, he must gain 
readily — how much more in that the wrong I did was very great. 
As a matter of fact, in the course of many years only three profited 
from what I said to them. 5 And later when the Lord had given 
me more strength in virtue, many profited within two or three 
years, as I shall afterward say. 6 Moreover, there is another 
great disadvantage: a gradual backsliding on the part of the soul. 
The most we have to strive for in the beginning is to care for 
oneself alone and consider that there is nothing on earth but God 
and oneself— and this practice is very beneficial. 

10. The devil tempts them in another way through distress 
over the sins and failings of others. (And all these temptations 
come from a zeal for virtue which it is necessary to understand 
and be careful about.) He puts it in their heads that this distress 
stems only from the desire that God not be offended and from 
concern for His honor; and next they seek a remedy. This desire 
disquiets them so much that it hinders their prayer; and the 
greatest harm lies in their thinking this distress amounts to vir- 
tue, perfection, and great zeal for God. I am not speaking about 
distress over the public sins of a Congregation — if they should 
become a common practice — or about the harm that comes to 
the Church from these heresies that give rise to the loss of so 
many souls. Such sorrow is very good; and since it is very good, 
it does not disquiet. 

But the safe path for the soul that practices prayer will be not 
to bother about anything or anyone and to pay attention to itself 
and to pleasing God. This is important — ah, if I should have 
to speak of the mistakes I have seen happen by trusting in the 
good intention! But let us strive always to look at the virtues 
and good deeds we see in others and cover their defects with 
the thought of our own great sins. This is a manner of acting 
that, although we cannot do so with perfection right away, 
gradually gains for us a great virtue, that is: considering all others 
better than ourselves. In this way with the help of God one begins 
to acquire this virtue, for it is necessary in all things; and when 


St. Teresa of Avila 

it is lacking, all our efforts are useless. Let us beseech Him to 
give us this virtue, for He will not refuse it to anyone who does 
his best. 

1 1 . This advice should be kept in mind also by those who 
reason a great deal with the intellect, deducing many ideas from 
one idea and working with concepts. Those like myself who can- 
not work with the intellect don't need any advice other than to 
be patient until the Lord gives them light and something to be 
occupied with. These persons can do so little with their intellects 
by themselves that any other counsel would hinder them rather 
than help them. 

But returning to those who practice discursive reflection, I 
say they should not pass the whole time thinking. For, although 
discursive reflection is very meritorious, they don't seem to realize 
that since their prayer is delightful there should ever be a Sun- 
day or a time in which one is not working; but they think such 
time is lost. I consider this loss a great gain. But, as I have 
said, 7 they should put themselves in the presence of Christ and, 
without tiring the intellect, speak with and delight in Him and 
not wear themselves out in composing syllogisms; rather, they 
should show Him their needs and the reason why He doesn't 
have to allow us to be in His presence. The discursive reflection 
they can do at one time, and the other acts at another, so that 
the soul may not grow tired of always eating the same food. These 
acts are very delightful and helpful if one's taste becomes ac- 
customed to them. They contain a great amount of sustenance 
giving the soul life and many benefits. 

12.1 want to explain myself further because these matters con- 
cerning prayer are all difficult and if one doesn't find a master 
for himself, they are very hard to understand. As a result, even 
though I want to be brief and just touching upon them is enough 
for someone with good intelligence (like the one who ordered 
me to write about these matters of prayer), my dullness of mind 
does not allow me to explain in a few words something it is so 
important to explain well. For since I suffered so much, I pity 
those who begin solely with books because it is strange how dif- 
ferent what one understands is from what one afterward sees 
through experience. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 13 


But to return to what I was saying: 8 let us begin to think 
about an episode of the Passion, let's say of when our Lord was 
bound to the pillar. The intellect goes in search of reasons for 
better understanding the great sorrows and pain His Majesty 
suffered in that solitude and many other things that the intellect, 
if it works hard, can herein deduce. How much more if it is the 
intellect of a learned man! This is the method of prayer with 
which all must begin, continue, and finish; and it is a very ex- 
cellent and safe path until the Lord leads one to other super- 
natural things. 

13.1 say "all," but there are many souls that benefit more by 
other meditations than those on the sacred Passion. For just as 
there are many mansions in heaven, 9 there are many paths. 
Some persons find it helpful to think about hell, others about 
death; some if they have tender hearts experience much fatigue 
if they always think about the Passion, and they are refreshed 
and helped by considering the power and grandeur of God in 
creatures — and the love He bore us, and its manifestation in all 
things. This is an admirable method of procedure as long as one 
often reflects on the Passion and life of Christ from which has 
come and continues to come every good. 

14. Beginners need counsel so as to see what helps them most. 
For this reason a master is very necessary providing he has ex- 
perience. If he doesn't, he can be greatly mistaken and lead a 
soul without understanding it nor allowing it to understand itself. 
For since it sees that there is great merit in being subject to a 
master, it doesn't dare depart from what he commands it. I have 
come upon souls intimidated and afflicted for whom I felt great 
pity because the one who taught them had no experience; and 
there was one person who didn't know what to do with herself. 
Since they do not understand spiritual things, these masters af- 
flict soul and body and obstruct progress. One of these souls spoke 
to me about a master who held her bound for eight years and 
wouldn't let her go beyond self knowledge; the Lord had already 
brought her to the prayer of quiet, and so she suffered much 

15. This path of self knowledge must never be abandoned, 
nor is there on this journey a soul so much a giant that it has 


St. Teresa of Avila 

no need to return often to the stage of an infant and a suckling. 
And this should never be forgotten. Perhaps I shall speak of it 
more often 10 because it is very important. There is no stage of 
prayer so sublime that it isn't necessary to return often to the 
beginning. Along this path of prayer, self knowledge and the 
thought of one's sins is the bread with which all palates must 
be fed no matter how delicate they may be; they cannot be sus- 
tained without this bread. It must be eaten within bounds, 
nonetheless. Once a soul sees that it is now submissive and 
understands clearly that it has nothing good of itself and is aware 
both of being ashamed before so great a King and of repaying 
so little of the great amount it owes Him — what need is there 
to waste time here? We must go on to other things that the Lord 
places before us; and there is no reason to leave them aside, for 
His Majesty knows better than we what is fitting for us to eat. 

16. So it is very important that the master have prudence — I 
mean that he have good judgment — and experience; if besides 
these he has learning, so much the better. But if one cannot find 
these three qualifications together, the first two are more im- 
portant since men with a background in studies can be sought 
out and consulted when there is need. I say that if these learned 
men do not practice prayer their learning is of little help to begin- 
ners. I do not mean that beginners shouldn't consult learned men, 
for I would rather a spirit without prayer than one that has not 
begun to walk in truth. Also, learning is a great thing because 
learned men teach and enlighten us who know little; and, when 
brought before the truths of Sacred Scripture, we do what we 
ought. May God deliver us from foolish devotions. 

17.1 want to explain myself further, for I believe I'm getting 
mixed up in many things. I've always had this fault of not know- 
ing how to explain myself, as I have said, 11 except at the cost 
of many words. A nun begins to practice prayer. If a foolish 
and whimsical person is directing her, he will explain that it is 
better for her to obey him than her superior. He does this without 
malice but thinks he is doing right, because if he is not a religious, 
such advice will seem to be good. And when dealing with mat- 
ters in the home if the person is a married woman, he will tell 
her that it is better to remain in prayer even if it displeases her 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 13 


husband. Thus he doesn't know how to arrange time or things 
so that they be conformed to truth. Since he lacks the light 
himself, he doesn't know how to enlighten others even though 
he may want to do so. And although it seems that learning is 
not necessary for such knowledge, my opinion has always been 
and will be that every Christian strive to speak if possible with 
someone who has gone through studies; and the more learned 
the person the better. Those who walk the path of prayer have 
a greater need for this counsel; and the more spiritual they are, 
the greater their need. 

18. Let not the spiritual person be misled by saying that learned 
men without prayer are unsuitable for those who practice it. I 
have consulted many learned men because for some years now, 
on account of a greater necessity, I have sought them out more; 
and I've always been a friend of men of learning. For though 
some don't have experience, they don't despise the Spirit nor 
do they ignore it, because in Sacred Scripture, which they study, 
they always find the truth of the good spirit. I hold that the devil 
will not deceive with illusions the person of prayer who consults 
learned men, unless this person wants to be deceived, because 
the devils have a tremendous fear of that learning which is ac- 
companied by humility and virtue; and they know they will be 
discovered and go away with a loss. 

19. I have said this because there are opinions going 
around 12 that learned men if they are not spiritual are no help 
to people who practice prayer. I have already said that it is 
necessary to have a spiritual master; but if he is not a learned 
man, this lack of learning will be a hindrance. It will be a great 
help to consult with learned men. If they are virtuous even though 
they may not experience spiritual things, they will benefit me; 
and God will enable them to explain what they must teach — 
He will even give them spiritual experience so that they might 
help us. I do not say this without having experienced it, and 
it has happened to me with more than two. I say that if in- 
dividuals are going to submit completely to only one master, 
they would be greatly mistaken if they did not seek one like this 
since if he is a religious he must be subject to his superior. For 
perhaps the master will be lacking all the three qualities 13 of 


St. Teresa of Avila 

a good master, which will be no small cross, especially if the soul 
is unwilling to submit to one with poor judgment. At least I 
haven't been able to submit in this way myself; nor do I think 
such submission is fitting. But those who belong to the laity, 
let them praise God that they can choose someone to whom they 
may be subject and not lose this very virtuous freedom. Let them, 
however, postpone having a master until a suitable person is 
found, for the Lord will provide one on the condition that all 
is founded upon humility and the desire to do the right thing. 
I praise God greatly, and women and those who haven't gone 
through studies must always be infinitely grateful to Him that 
there be someone who by means of so many labors has attained 
that truth which ignorant people don't know. 

20. I often marvel thinking about learned men, religious 
especially, who after the labor it cost them to acquire their 
knowledge use it to help me for nothing more than my asking 
them — and that there are persons who don't want to benefit from 
this labor! May God never allow this to happen! I see these men 
subject to the hardships of religious life, which are great, with 
its penances and bad food, subject to obedience — so that often 
it puts me to shame, certainly; then together with all this, the 
lack of sleep; everything a trial, everything a cross. It seems to 
me it would be a great wrong to lose so much good through one's 
own fault. And it may be that some of us who are free of these 
hardships and receive this knowledge already prepared and 
served, as they say, and living as we please, think that just 
because we spend a little more time in prayer, we merit more 
than those who have undergone so many labors. 

21 . May You be blessed, Lord, who have made me so unable 
and unprofitable! But I praise You very much because You 
awaken so many to awaken us. Our prayer for those who give 
us light should be unceasing. In the midst of tempests as fierce 
as those the Church now endures, what would we be without 
them? If some have gone bad, the good ones shine more brilliant- 
ly. May it please the Lord to keep them in His hands and help 
them so that they might help us, amen. 

22. I have wandered greatly from the subject I began to speak 
about. But everything is a subject for beginners that their journey 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 14 


on so lofty a road might begin on the true road. Now returning 
to what I was saying about Christ bound at the pillar: it is good 
to reflect awhile and think about the pains He suffered there, 
and why, and who He is, and the love with which He suffered 
them. But one should not always weary oneself in seeking these 
reflections but just remain there in His presence with the in- 
tellect quiet. And if we are able we should occupy ourselves in 
looking at Christ who is looking at us, and we should speak, 
and petition, and humble ourselves, and delight in the Lord's 
presence, and remember that we are unworthy of being there. 
When we can do this, even though it may be at the beginning 
of prayer, we will derive great benefit; and this manner of prayer 
has many advantages — at least my soul derived them. 

I don't know if I have been successful in speaking about this. 
Your Reverence will be the judge. May it please the Lord that 
I succeed in always giving Him pleasure, amen. 

Chapter 14 

Begins to explain the second degree o / prayer in which the Lord now starts 
to give the soul a more special kind of delight. Explains how this experience 
is supernatural. This matter is worth noting. 

IT HAS BEEN EXPLAINED now how the garden is watered 
by labor and the use of one's arms, drawing the water up from 
the well. Let us speak now of the second manner, ordained by 
the Lord of the garden, for getting water; that is, by turning 
the crank of a water wheel and by aqueducts, the gardener ob- 
tains more water with less labor; and he can rest without hav- 
ing to work constantly. Well, this method applied to what they 
call the prayer of quiet is what I now want to discuss. 

2. Here the soul begins to be recollected and comes upon 
something supernatural because in no way can it acquire this 
prayer through any efforts it may make. True, at one time it 
seemingly got tired turning the crank, and working with the in- 
tellect, and filling the aqueducts. But here the water is higher, 
and so the labor is much less than that required in pulling it 


St. Teresa of Avila 

up from the well. I mean that the water is closer because grace 
is more clearly manifest to the soul. 

In this prayer the faculties are gathered within so as to enjoy 
that satisfaction with greater delight. But they are not lost, nor 
do they sleep. Only the will is occupied in such a way that, 
without knowing how, it becomes captive; it merely consents 
to God allowing Him to imprison it as one who well knows how 
to be the captive of its lover. O Jesus and my Lord! How valuable 
is Your love to us here! It holds our love so bound that it doesn't 
allow it the freedom during that time to love anything else but 

3. The other two faculties help the will to be capable of en- 
joying so much good — although sometimes it happens that even 
though the will is united, they are very unhelpful. But then it 
shouldn't pay any attention to them; rather it should remain in 
its joy and quietude. Because if the will desires to gather in these 
faculties, they both get lost. They are like doves that are 
dissatisfied with the food the owner of the dovecot gives them 
without their having to work. They go to look for food elsewhere, 
but they find it so scarce that they return. And thus these faculties 
go away and then come back to see if the will might give them 
what it enjoys. If the Lord desires to throw them some food, 
they stop; and if not, they return to their search. And they must 
think they are benefiting the will; and sometimes in desiring the 
memory or imagination to represent to the will what they're en- 
joying, they do the will harm. Well, then, be advised to behave 
toward them as I shall explain. 1 

4. All this that takes place here brings with it the greatest con- 
solation and with so little labor that prayer does not tire one, 
even though it lasts for a long while. The intellect's work here 
is very slow-paced, and it obtains a lot more water than it pulled 
out of the well. The tears God gives are now accompanied by 
joy; however, although they are experienced, there is no striv- 
ing for them. 

5. This water of great blessings and favors that the Lord gives 
here makes the virtues grow incomparably better than in the 
previous degree of prayer, for the soul is now ascending above 
its misery and receiving a little knowledge of the delights of glory. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 14 


This water I believe makes the virtues grow better and also brings 
the soul much closer to the true Virtue, which is God, from 
whence come all the virtues. His Majesty is beginning to com- 
municate Himself to this soul, and He wants it to experience 
how He is doing so. 

In arriving here it begins soon to lose its craving for earthly 
things — and little wonder! It sees clearly that one moment of 
the enjoyment of glory cannot be experienced here below, neither 
are there riches, or sovereignties, or honors, or delights that are 
able to provide a brief moment of that happiness, for it is a true 
happiness that, it is seen, satisfies us. In earthly things it would 
seem to me a marvel were we ever to understand just where we 
can find this satisfaction, for there is never lacking in these earth- 
ly things both the "y es " and the "no." During the time of this 
prayer, everything is "yes." The "no" comes afterward upon seeing 
that the delight is ended and that one cannot recover it — nor 
does one know how. Were one to crush self with penances and 
prayer and all the rest, it would profit little if the Lord did not 
desire to give this delight. God in His greatness desires that this 
sou] understand that He is so close it no longer needs to send 
Him messengers but can speak with Him itself and not by 
shouting since He is so near that when it merely moves its lips, 
He understands it. 

6. It seems impertinent to say this since we know that God 
always understands us and is with us. There is no doubt about 
this understanding and presence. But our Emperor and Lord 
desires that in this prayer we know that He understands us, and 
what His presence does, and that He wants to begin to work 
in the soul in a special way. All of this that the Lord desires is 
manifest in the great interior and exterior satisfaction He gives 
the soul and in the difference there is, as I said, 2 between this 
delight and happiness and the delights of earth, for this delight 
seems to fill the void that through our sins we have caused in 
the soul. This satisfaction takes place in its very intimate depths, 
and the soul doesn't know where the satisfaction comes from or 
how, nor frequently does it know what to do or what to desire 
or what to ask for. It seems it has found everything at once and 
doesn't know what it has found. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Nor do I know how to explain this experience because for so 
many things learning is necessary. Here it would be helpful to 
explain well the difference between a general and a particular 
grace — for there are many who are ignorant of this difference — 
and how the Lord desires that the soul in this prayer almost see 
with its own eyes, as they say, this particular grace. Learning 
is also required to explain many other things, which I perhaps 
did not express correctly. But since what I say is going to be 
checked by persons who will recognize any error, I'm not wor- 
rying about it. In matters of theology as well as in those of the 
spirit I know that I can be mistaken; yet, since this account will 
end in good hands, these learned men will understand and 
remove what is erroneous. 

7. Still, I should like to explain this experience because we 
are dealing with beginners; and when the Lord begins to grant 
these favors, the soul itself doesn't understand them nor does 
it know what to do with itself. For if the Lord leads it along the 
path of fear, as He did me, it is a great trial if there is no one 
to understand it. To see itself described brings it intense joy, 
and then it sees clearly the path it is walking on. It is a great 
good to know what one must do in order to advance in any of 
these stages. For I have suffered much and have lost a great deal 
of time for not knowing what to do, and I pity souls greatly who 
find themselves alone when they arrive at this stage. Even though 
I have read many spiritual books and they touch upon the rele- 
vant points, the explanations are brief; and if the soul is not very 
experienced, even were the explanations ample, it would have 
a hard time understanding itself. 

8. I desire very much that the Lord help me explain the ef- 
fects caused in the soul by these things that are now beginning 
to be supernatural so that through the effects one may know when 
they are the work of God's spirit. I say "one may know," but 
I mean in conformity with what one can know here below. It 
is always good that we walk with fear and caution. For, although 
the work may be from God, the devil at times can transform 
himself into an angel of light; and if the soul has not a great 
deal of experience, it will not discern the devil's work — and, in 
fact, it must have so much experience that it needs to come close 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 14 


to the very summit of prayer in order to have such discernment. 

The little time at my disposal is little help to me and so His 
Majesty must come to my aid. I have to follow the community 
life and have many other duties since I am in a house which 
is just beginning, 3 as will be seen afterward. As a result, I write 
without the time and calm for it, and bit by bit. I should like 
to have time, because when the Lord gives the spirit, things are 
put down with ease and in a much better way. Putting them 
down is then like copying a model you have before your eyes. 
But if the spirit is lacking, it is more difficult to speak about these 
things than to speak Arabic, 4 as the saying goes, even though 
many years may have been spent in prayer. As a result, it seems 
to me most advantageous to have this experience while I am 
writing, because I see clearly that it is not I who say what I write; 
for neither do I plan it with the intellect nor do I know after- 
ward how I managed to say it. This often happens to me. 

9. Let us now return to our garden and see how these trees 
are beginning to bud so as to blossom and afterward give fruit — 
and also the flowers and carnations so as to give forth their 
fragrance. This comparison has its charm for me because often 
in my beginnings (and, please the Lord, I may have now begun 
to serve His Majesty; I mean the beginnings of what I shall say 
from here on about my life) it was a great delight for me to con- 
sider my soul as a garden and reflect that the Lord was taking 
His walk in it. I begged Him to increase the fragrance of the 
little flowers of virtue that were beginning to bloom, so it seemed, 
and that they might give Him glory and He might sustain them 
since I desired nothing for myself — and that He might cut the 
ones He wanted, for I already knew that better ones would flower. 
I say "cut" because there are times when the soul has no thought 
of this garden. Everything seems to be dry, and it seems there 
is not going to be any water to sustain it — nor does it appear 
that there has ever been in the soul anything of virtue. It 
undergoes much tribulation because the Lord desires that it seem 
to the poor gardener that everything acquired in watering and 
keeping the garden up is being lost. This dryness amounts to 
an authentic weeding and pulling up of the remaining bad growth 
by its roots, no matter how small it may be. By knowing that 


St. Teresa of Avila 

there is no diligence that suffices if God takes away the water 
of grace and by placing little value on the nothing that we are, 
and even less than nothing, the soul gains much humility. The 
flowers begin to grow again. 

10. O my Lord and my God! I cannot say this without tears 
and great joy of soul! How You desire, Lord, thus to be with 
us and to be present in the Sacrament (for in all truth this can 
be believed since it is so, and in the fullness of truth we can make 
this comparison); and if it were not for our fault, we could re- 
joice in being with You, and You would be glad to be with us 
since You say that Your delight is to be with the children of the 
earth. } O my Lord! What is this? As often as I hear these 
words, they bring me great consolation; they did so even when 
I was very far gone. Is it possible, Lord, that there be a soul 
that reaches the point where You bestow similar favors and gifts, 
and understands that You are to be with it, that goes back to 
offending You after so many favors and after such striking 
demonstrations of the love You have for it which cannot be 
doubted since the effects of it are obvious? Yes, there certainly 
is one, and not one who has done this once but done it many 
times — for it is I. And may it please your goodness, Lord, that 
I might be the only ungrateful one and the only one who has 
done such terrible evil and shown such excessive ingratitude. 
But even from this evil, Your infinite goodness has drawn out 
something worth-while; and the greater the evil, the more 
resplendent the wonder of Your mercies. And how many are 
the reasons I can sing Your mercies forever! 

1 1 . I beseech You, my God, that it may be so and that I may 
sing them without end since You have deigned to bestow upon 
me mercies so outstanding they amaze those who see them; and 
as for me, they frequently carry me out of myself to praise You 
the better. By remaining in myself without You, I could do 
nothing, my Lord, but return to cutting the garden flowers in 
such a way that this miserable ground would once more serve 
for a trash heap as it did previously. Do not permit it, Lord, 
or desire the loss of the soul You bought with so many labors 
and which You have so often gone back again to rescue and save 
from the teeth of the terrifying dragon. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 15 


12. May your Reverence pardon me, h for I have gone off the 
subject; and don't be surprised, because in speaking about myself 
I am dealing with my feelings, and therefore it is often very dif- 
ficult to resist continuing to proclaim the praises of God as I 
put down in writing the many things T owe Him. And I don't 
think these praises will cause displeasure to your Reverence, for 
we both, it seems to me, can sing the same thing even though 
in a different way — because what T owe God is much more since 
He has pardoned me more, 7 as your Reverence knows. 

Chapter 15 

Continues on the same subject and gives some advice about how to act 
in this prayer of quiet. Discusses the fact that many souls reach this prayer 
but few pass beyond. Knowledge of the things touched on here is very 
necessary and beneficial. 

quietude and recollection is something that is clearly felt 
through the satisfaction and peace bestowed on the soul, along 
with great contentment and calm and a very gentle delight in 
the faculties. It seems to the soul, since it hasn't gone further, 
that there's nothing left to desire and that it should willingly say 
with St. Peter that it will make its dwelling there. 1 It dares not 
move or stir, for it seems that good will slip through its hands — 
nor would it even want to breathe sometimes. The poor little 
thing doesn't understand that since by its own efforts it can do 
nothing to draw that good to itself, so much less will it be able 
to keep it for longer than the Lord desires. 

I have already mentioned that in this first recollection and 
quiet the soul's faculties do not cease functioning. But the soul 
is so satisfied with God that as long as the recollection lasts, the 
quiet and calm are not lost since the will is united with God even 
though the two faculties are distracted; in fact, little by little the 
will brings the intellect and the memory back to recollection. 
Because even though the will may not be totally absorbed, it 
is so well occupied, without knowing how, that no matter what 


St. Teresa of Avila 

efforts the other two faculties make, they cannot take away its 
contentment and joy. But rather with hardly any effort the will 
is gradually helped so that this little spark of love of God may 
not go out. 

2. May it please His Majesty to give me grace to explain this 
state well because there are many, many souls who reach it but 
few that pass beyond; and I don't know whose fault it is. Most 
surely God does not fail, for once His Majesty has granted a 
soul the favor of reaching this stage, I don't believe He will fail 
to grant it many more favors unless through its own fault. 

It is very important that the soul reaching this stage realize 
the great dignity of its state and the great favor the Lord has 
bestowed on it and how with good reason it must not belong 
to the earth because it now seems His goodness will make it a 
citizen of heaven, provided it doesn't stop through its own fault; 
and unhappy it will be if it turns back. I think turning back would 
mean falling to the bottom, as I was doing, if the mercy of the 
Lord hadn't rescued me. For the most part, in my opinion, this 
turning back will come through serious faults; nor is it possible 
to leave so much good without the blindness caused by much evil. 

3. Thus, for the love of the Lord, I beg those whom His Ma- 
jesty has so highly favored in the attainment of this state that 
they understand it and esteem it with a humble and holy con- 
fidence so as not to return to the fleshpots of Egypt. 2 If through 
weakness and wickedness and a miserable nature they should 
fall, as I did, let them keep ever in mind the good they have 
lost and be suspicious and walk with the fear — for they are right 
in doing so — that if they don't return to prayer, they will go from 
bad to worse. What I call a true fall is abhorrence of the path 
by which one gained so much good; and to these souls I am speak- 
ing. For I am not saying that they should never offend God or 
fall into sin, although it would be right for anyone who has begun 
to receive these favors to be very much on guard against sin- 
ning; but we are miserable creatures. What I advise strongly 
is not to abandon prayer, for in prayer people will understand 
what they are doing and win repentance from the Lord and for- 
titude to lift themselves up. And you must believe that if you 
give up prayer, you are, in my opinion, courting danger. I don't 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 15 


know if I understand what I'm saying because, as I said, s I'm 
judging by myself. 

4. This prayer, then, is a little spark of the Lord's true love 
which He begins to enkindle in the soul; and He desires that 
the soul grow in the understanding of what this love accompanied 
by delight is. For anyone who has experience, it is impossible 
not to understand soon that this little spark cannot be acquired. 
Yet, this nature of ours is so eager for delights that it tries 
everything; but it is quickly left cold because however much it 
may desire to light the fire and obtain this delight, it doesn't seem 
to be doing anything else than throwing water on it and killing 
it. If this quietude and recollection and little spark is from God's 
spirit and not a delight given by the devil or procured by 
ourselves, it will be noticed no matter how small it is. And if 
we don't extinguish it through our own fault, it is what will begin 
to enkindle the large fire that (as I shall mention in its place) 4 
throws forth flames of the greatest love of God which His Ma- 
jesty gives to perfect souls. 

5. This little spark is the sign or the pledge God gives to this 
soul that He now chooses it for great things if it will prepare 
itself to receive them. This spark is a great gift, much more so 
than I can express. 

As I say, 5 I know many souls that reach this stage, but to me 
it is a terrible pity that those that pass beyond, as they should, 
are so few I am ashamed to mention it. I do not mean there 
are few; there must be many, for there must be some reason 
why God allows us to live. I am speaking from what I have seen. 
I should very much like to advise these souls to be careful not 
to hide the talent 6 since it seems God desires to choose them to 
bring profit to many others, especially in these times when 
staunch friends of God are necessary to sustain the weak. And 
those who are aware of this favor within themselves may con- 
sider that they are such friends if they know how to respond ac- 
cording to the laws that even a good friendship in the world 
demands; otherwise, as I said, 7 they should be fearful lest they 
bring evil upon themselves — and please God it would then fall 
only upon themselves! 

6. What the soul must do during these times of quiet amounts 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to no more than proceeding gently and noiselessly. What I call 
noise is running about with the intellect looking for many words 
and reflections so as to give thanks for this gift and piling up 
one's sins and faults in order to see that the gift is unmerited. 
Everything is motion here; the intellect is representing, and the 
memory hurrying about. For certainly these faculties tire me 
out from time to time; and although I have a poor memory, I 
cannot subdue it. The will calmly and wisely must understand 
that one does not deal well with God by force and that our ef- 
forts are like the careless use of large pieces of wood which 
smother this little spark. One should realize this and humbly 
say: "Lord, what am I capable of here? What has the servant 
to do with the Lord — or earth with heaven?" Or other words 
that at this time come to mind out of love and well grounded 
in the knowledge that what is said is the truth. And one should 
pay no attention to the intellect, for it is a grinding mill. The 
will may desire to share what it enjoys or may work to recollect 
the intellect, for often it will find itself in this union and calm 
while the intellect wanders about aimlessly. It is better that the 
will leave the intellect alone than go after it, and that it remain 
like a wise bee in the recollection and in enjoyment of that gift. 
For if no bee were to enter the beehive and each were employed 
in going after the other, no honey could be made. 

7. As a result, the soul will lose a great deal if it isn't careful 
in this matter, especially if the intellect is keen. For when the 
soul begins to compose speeches and search for ideas, though 
insignificant, it will think it is doing something if they are well 
expressed. The idea it should have here is a clear understand- 
ing that there isn't any idea that will make God give us so great 
a favor but that this favor comes only from His goodness; and 
it should be aware that we are very near His Majesty and ask 
for His gifts and pray for the Church and for those who have 
asked for our prayers and for the souls in purgatory, not with 
the noise of words but with longing that He hear us. This is a 
kind of prayer that includes many things and in which more is 
obtained than through a great deal of reflection by the intellect. 
Let the will awaken within itself some spontaneous considera- 
tions verifying its progress so as to quicken this love, and let 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 15 


it make some loving acts about what it will do for one to whom 
it owes so much without, as I said, 8 admitting noise from the 
intellect which goes about looking for great concepts. In fact, 
a little straw put there with humility — and it will be less than 
a straw if we put it on ourselves — will serve the purpose and 
help more to enkindle the fire than a lot of wood along with much 
learned reasoning. These, in our opinion, would smother the 
spark within the space of a Creed. 

This advice is good for the learned men who ordered me to 
write. For, through the goodness of God, all may reach this 
prayer; and it may happen that these learned men will pass the 
time in making scriptural applications. Although their studies 
will not cease to benefit them a lot before and afterward, here 
during these periods of prayer there is little need for learning, 
in my opinion; rather, their studies will make the will tepid. For 
in seeing itself near the light, the intellect then has the greatest 
clarity; and I, though being what I am, seem to be another 

8. And, in fact, it has happened to me that while in this 
quietude, and understanding hardly anything of the Latin 
prayers, especially of the psalter, I have not only understood 
how to render the Latin verse in the vernacular but have gone 
beyond to rejoicing in the meaning of the verse. 

I am not speaking of those who have to preach or teach, for 
in that case it is good to take advantage of those studies so as 
to aid the poor ones who, like myself, have little knowledge. 
Charity in helping souls is always a great thing, provided this 
help is given for God alone. 

Therefore, in these times of quietude, let the soul remain in 
its repose; let them put their learning to one side. The time will 
come when it will be useful for the Lord; they should esteem 
it so that they do not desire to abandon it for any treasure but 
to use it only to serve His Majesty, for it is very helpful. Believe 
me, in the presence of infinite Wisdom, a little study of humili- 
ty and one act of humility is worth more than all the knowledge 
of the world. Here there is no demand for reasoning but for 
knowing what as a matter of fact we are and for placing ourselves 
(with simplicity) in God's presence, for He desires the soul to 


St. Teresa of Avila 

become ignorant in His presence, as indeed it is. His Majesty 
humbles Himself so much that He allows us to be near Him 
in spite of what we are. 

9. The intellect is also stirred to compose prayers of thanksgiv- 
ing; but the will, calmly, without daring to raise its eyes, like 
the publican, 9 gives better thanks than the intellect can perhaps 
express with all its rhetorical artifices. Finally, at this stage one 
doesn't have to renounce completely discursive mental prayer 
or the use of some words, or even vocal prayers if there should 
be the desire or ability; if the quiet is great, it is difficult to speak 
without a good deal of effort. 

We can discern, in my opinion, whether this quiet comes from 
the spirit of God or whether we procure it ourselves once God 
begins to give devotion and we, as I said, 10 want to pass on to 
the quiet through our own efforts. When we procure the quiet 
ourselves, it produces no effect, quickly goes away, and leaves 
behind aridity. 

10. If the quiet is from the devil, I think an experienced soul 
will recognize this because it results in disturbance and a lack 
of humility and of preparation for the effects which the prayer 
coming from God produces. It doesn't leave light in the intellect 
or constancy in truth. The devil can do little harm or none at 
all if the soul directs to God the delight and sweetness it feels 
and fixes its thoughts and desires upon Him, as was advised. 
The devil can't gain anything; rather, God will permit that the 
devil, by means of the very delight he causes in the soul, will 
lose much. For this delight will prompt the soul — since it thinks 
God gives the delight — to return often to prayer with longing 
for the Lord. And if it is a humble soul and not inquisitive or 
concerned about delights, even though they be spiritual, but a 
friend of the cross, it will pay little attention to the consolation 
given by the devil. It will be unable to pay little attention to the 
consolation coming from the spirit of God but will highly esteem 
it. But anything the devil gives is like himself; a total lie. When 
the devil sees that in this consolation the soul humbles itself (for 
in this experience it must have much humility, as in all matters 
of prayer), he will not return often, because he sees his loss. 

11. For this reason and many others, I counselled in dealing 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 15 


with the first mode of prayer, the first water, 11 that it is an im- 
portant matter for beginners in prayer to start off by becoming 
detached from every kind of satisfaction and to enter the path 
solely with the determination to help Christ carry the cross like 
good cavaliers, who desire to serve their king at no salary since 
their salary is certain. We should fix our eyes on the true and 
everlasting kingdom which we are trying to gain. It is very im- 
portant to keep this kingdom always in mind, especially in the 
beginning. For afterward it is seen so clearly that rather than 
striving to keep remembering the short time everything lasts and 
how everything is nothing and how rest should be considered 
no more than a trifle, it is necessary to forget these things in 
order to live. 

12. It seems this is a very poor way of thinking — and so it 
is. For those who are advanced in perfection would consider it 
an affront and would be ashamed if they thought they should 
give up the good things of this world because these things will 
come to an end; even if these things were to last forever, ad- 
vanced souls would be happy to renounce them for God. And 
the more perfect these souls are, the happier they would be; and 
the longer the things last, still happier would they be. For here 
in these souls love has now increased, and it is love that is at 
work. But for beginners this advice is most important, and they 
should not hold it in little esteem, for what is obtained is a great 
good — and that is why I give this advice so strongly. This ad- 
vice will even be necessary sometimes for those who have reached 
a very exalted prayer when God desires to try them and when 
it seems that His Majesty is abandoning them. As I already 
said, 12 and I wouldn't want this to be forgotten, in this life the 
soul doesn't grow like the body, even though we say it grows — 
and in fact it does. After a child grows up and develops a strong 
body and becomes an adult, the body doesn't dwindle and grow 
small again. But in the case of the soul, the Lord desires this 
to happen, according to what I have seen for myself; for other- 
wise I wouldn't know. The purpose must be to humiliate us for 
our own great good and so that we might not become careless 
while in this exile, since the one who goes highest must fear the 
most and trust the less in self. There come times when it is 


St. Teresa of Avila 

necessary for these souls to protect themselves from offending 
God. Their wills are so fixed in His that rather than commit 
an imperfection, they would allow themselves to be tormented 
and would suffer a thousand deaths. But since they are attacked 
by temptations and persecutions, it becomes necessary, in order 
to avoid sin, to make use of prayer's first weapons and return 
to the thought that everything will end and that there is a heaven 
and a hell and other things of this sort. 

13. Well, returning to what I was saying, 15 a solid founda- 
tion for the protection of oneself from the tricks and consola- 
tions coming from the devil is to begin with the determination 
to follow the way of the cross and not desire consolations, since 
the Lord Himself pointed out this way of perfection saying: take 
up your cross and follow me. H He is our model; whoever follows 
His counsels solely for the sake of pleasing Him has nothing to 

14. In the progress they observe in themselves they will know 
that the devil is not the cause if, even though they fall again, 
there remains a sign that the Lord was present in their prayer: 
and it is that they rise again quickly. There are other signs as 
well which I shall now mention. When the prayer comes from 
God's spirit, there is no need to go dredging up things in order 
to derive some humility and shame because the Lord Himself 
gives this prayer in a manner very different from that which we 
gain through our nice little reasonings. For such humility is 
nothing in comparison with the true humility the Lord with His 
light here teaches and which causes an embarrassment that un- 
does one. It is well known that God gives a knowledge that makes 
us realize we have no good of ourselves; and the greater the 
favors, the greater is this knowledge. He bestows a strong desire 
to advance in prayer and not abandon it no matter what trial 
may come upon one. The soul offers itself up in all things. It 
feels sure, while still being humble and fearing, that it will be 
saved. He casts out from it all servile fear and grants a more 
mature trusting fear. It is aware of the beginning of a love of 
God that has much less self-interest. It desires periods of solitude 
in order to enjoy that good more. 

15. In sum, so as not to tire myself, this prayer of quiet is 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 16 


the beginning of all blessings. The flowers are already at the point 
in which hardly anything is lacking for them to bud; and the 
soul sees this very clearly. In no way is it able to believe at that 
time that God is not with it. When it sees again the cracks and 
imperfections in itself, it then fears everything. And it is good 
that it is fearful, although there are some souls that profit more 
by believing that this prayer comes certainly from God than by 
all the fears possible. For if by nature someone is loving and 
grateful, the memory of the favor God has granted does more 
to bring such a person back to God than all the infernal 
punishments imaginable. At least this happened in my case, even 
though I am so wretched. 

16. Because the signs of the good spirit will be mentioned as 
I go along and it is so difficult for me to explain them well, I 
won't speak of them now. I believe that with the help of God 
I shall in this way somehow succeed. Apart from my experience 
in which I have understood a great deal, I know about these 
from some very learned men and very holy persons who are 
worthy of belief. And when souls reach this stage, through the 
goodness of God, may they not go about as wearied as I did. 

Chapter 16 

Treats of the third degree of prayer. Explains sublime matters and what 
the soul that reaches this stage can do and the effects produced by these 
great favors of the Lord. This chapter lifts the soul up in the praises of 
God and brings wonderful consolation to whoever reaches this stage. 

LET US COME NOW to speak of the third water by which 
this garden is irrigated, that is, the water flowing from a 
river or spring. By this means the garden is irrigated with much 
less labor, although some labor is required to direct the flow of 
the water. The Lord so desires to help the gardener here that 
He Himself becomes practically the gardener and the one who 
does everything. 

This prayer is a sleep of the faculties: the faculties neither fail 
entirely to function nor understand how they function. The con- 
solation, the sweetness, and the delight are incomparably greater 


St. Teresa of Avila 

than that experienced in the previous prayer. The water of grace 
rises up to the throat of this soul since such a soul can no longer 
move forward; nor does it know how; nor can it move backward. 
It would desire to enjoy the greatest glory. It is like a person 
who is already holding the candle and for whom little is left before 
dying the death that is desired: such a one rejoices in that agony 
with the greatest delight describable. This experience doesn't 
seem to me to be anything else than an almost complete death 
to all earthly things and an enjoyment of God. 

I don't know any other terms for describing it or how to ex- 
plain it. Nor does the soul then know what to do because it doesn't 
know whether to speak or to be silent, whether to laugh or to 
weep. This prayer is a glorious foolishness, a heavenly madness 
where the true wisdom is learned; and it is for the soul a most 
delightful way of enjoying. 

2. In fact five or even six years ago the Lord often gave me 
this prayer in abundance, and I didn't understand it; nor did 
I know how to speak of it. Thus it was my intention, at this point, 
to say very little or nothing at all. I did understand clearly that 
it was not a complete union of all the faculties and that this type 
of prayer was more excellent than the previous one. But I con- 
fess that I couldn't discern or understand where the difference 
lay. I believe that on account of the humility your Reverence 1 
has shown in desiring to be helped by as simple-minded a per- 
son as myself, the Lord today after Communion granted me this 
prayer; and interrupting my thanksgiving, He put before me 
these comparisons, taught me the manner of explaining it, and 
what the soul must do here. Certainly I was startled and I 
understood at once. Often I had been as though bewildered and 
inebriated in this love, and never was I able to understand its 
nature. I understood clearly that it was God's work, but I couldn't 
understand how He was working in this stage. For the truth of 
the matter is that the faculties are almost totally united with God 
but not so absorbed as not to function. I am extremely pleased 
that I now understand it. Blessed be the Lord who so favored me! 

3. The faculties have only the ability to be occupied completely 
with God. It doesn't seem that any one of them dares to move, 
nor can we make them stir unless we strain to distract ourselves; 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 16 


but even then I don't think we could do so entirely. One utters 
many words here in praise of God without thinking them up, 
unless it is the Lord who thinks them up; at least the intellect 
is worth nothing here. The soul would desire to cry out praises, 
and it is beside itself— a delightful disquiet. Now the flowers are 
blossoming; they are beginning to spread their fragrance. The 
soul would desire here that everyone could see and understand 
its glory so as to praise God and that they would all help it to 
praise Him and share in its joy since it cannot bear so much 
joy. I think it is like what is said in the Gospels about the woman 
that wanted to call or did call in her neighbors. 2 . This joy it 
seems to me must have been what was felt in the admirable spirit 
of the royal prophet David when he played on the harp and sang 
the praises of God. I'm very devoted to this glorious king, and 
I would desire all to be so, especially those of us who are 
sinners. 3 

4. Oh, help me God! What is the soul like when it is in this 
state! It would want to be all tongues so as to praise the Lord. 
It speaks folly in a thousand holy ways, ever trying to find means 
of pleasing the one who thus possesses it. I know a person who 
though not a poet suddenly composed some deeply-felt verses 
well expressing her pain. They were not composed by the use 
of her intellect; rather, in order that she enjoy the glory so 
delightful a distress gave to her, she complained of it in this way 
to God. She desired all her body and soul to break in pieces to 
demonstrate the joy she felt in this pain. What torments can then 
be offered her that will not give her delight when she suffers them 
for her Lord? I see clearly that the martyrs did nothing of 
themselves in suffering torments, for the soul well knows that 
fortitude comes from another. But what will it feel in returning 
to its senses so as to live in the world and in having to return 
to the world's cares and formalities? 

Well, it doesn't seem to me that I have exaggerated. Nothing 
can compare with the delight the Lord desires a soul to enjoy 
in this exile. May You be blessed forever, Lord! May all things 
praise You forever! Since while I write this I am not freed from 
such holy, heavenly madness coming from Your goodness and 
mercy — for You grant this favor without any merits on my part 


St. Teresa of Avila 

at all — either desire, my King, I beseech You, that all to whom 
I speak become mad from Your love, or do not permit that I 
speak to anyone! Either ordain, Lord, that I no longer pay at- 
tention to anything in the world, or take me out of it! No longer 
my God, can this servant of Yours suffer the many trials that 
come from seeing herself without You since if she must live, she 
desires no rest — nor should You give it to her! This soul would 
now want to see itself free — eating kills it; sleeping distresses it. 
It observes that its lifetime is passing in pleasure and that nothing 
other than You can give it pleasure any longer; for since it desires 
to live no longer in itself but in You, it seems that its life is 

5. O true Lord and my Glory! How delicate and extremely 
heavy a cross You have prepared for those who reach this state! 
"Delicate" because it is pleasing; "heavy" because there come times 
when there is no capacity to bear it; and yet the soul would never 
want to be freed from it unless it were for the sake of being with 
You. When it recalls that it hasn't served You in anything and 
that by living it can serve You, it would want to carry a much 
heavier cross and never die until the end of the world. It finds 
no rest in anything except in doing You some small service. It 
doesn't know what it wants, but it well understands that it wants 
nothing other than You. 

6. O my son! 4 (The one to whom this is addressed and who 
ordered me to write this is so humble that he wants to be so 
called.) Let some of these things which your Reverence sees that 
I go to excess in be for you alone. There is no reason sufficient 
to prevent me from this excess when the Lord carries me out 
of myself— nor since this morning when I received Communion 
do I think it is I who am speaking. It seems that what I see is 
a dream, and I would desire to see no other persons than those 
who are sick with this sickness I now have. I beg your Reverence 
that we may all be mad for love of Him who for love of us was 
called mad. Since your Reverence says that you love me, prove 
it to me by preparing yourself so that God may grant you this 
favor; I see very few who do not have much more discretion 
than is necessary for their spiritual progress. It could well be 
that I am the one who abounds in this more than all others. Don't 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 16 


allow this to happen to me, my Father (since you are also like 
a son), for you are my confessor and the one to whom I have 
entrusted my soul. Disillusion me with truth since these truths 
are seldom made use of. 

7. I should like the five of us who at present love each other 
in Christ"' to make a kind of pact that since others in these 
times gather together in secret against His Majesty to prepare 
wicked deeds and heresies, we might seek to gather together some 
time to free each other from illusion and to speak about how 
we might mend our ways and please God more since we do not 
know ourselves as well as others who observe us if they do so 
with love and concern for our progress. I say we should gather 
in secret because this kind of talk is no longer in fashion. Even 
preachers are composing their sermons so as not to displease. 
They may have good intentions, and the good deeds may follow; 
but the result is that few try to amend! But why don't sermons 
influence many to give up public vice? Do you know my opi- 
nion? Those who preach are very cautious; they don't have the 
great fire of love of God that the Apostles did, and so the flame 
has little power to enkindle. I don't say the fire should be as in- 
tense as that of the Apostles, but would that it were greater than 
what I see. Does your Reverence know what ought to be stress- 
ed? That souls abhor their lives and hold their reputations in 
little esteem, that — providing they tell the truth and uphold it 
for the glory of God — they pay little attention to whether or not 
they lose or gain all. Those who in fact risk all for God will find 
that they have both lost all and gained all. I don't say that I'm 
like this, but I wish I were. 

8. Oh what great freedom to consider it a captivity to have 
to live and behave in conformity with the laws of the world: Since 
this freedom is obtained from the Lord, there are no slaves who 
would not risk all in order to be redeemed and return to their 
country. Since this is the true way, there is no reason to stop 
in the middle; otherwise we will never completely gain so great 
a treasure until life is finished. May the Lord grant us the favor 
of obtaining it. 

Tear up what I have just said, if your Reverence thinks you 
should, as though it were a private letter to you, and pardon 


St. Teresa of Avila 

me for I have been very bold. 

Chapter 17 

Continues with the same subject, the explanation of this third degree of 
prayer. Concludes the discussion of its effects. Speaks of the harm caused 
here by the imagination and memory. 

A REASONABLE ACCOUNT has been given of this kind 
of prayer and of what the soul must do, or better, what 
God does in it, for it is He who now takes on the task of gardener 
and wants it to rest. The will only gives its consent to these favors 
it enjoys; and it should offer itself to all that the true Wisdom 
desires to do in it because courage is certainly necessary. For 
the joy is so great that it sometimes seems the soul is at the very 
point of going forth from the body. And what a happy death 
that would be! 

2. Here I think it is advisable, as I told your Reverence, 1 to 
abandon oneself completely into the hands of God: if He wants 
to bring the soul to heaven, it goes, if to hell, it feels no grief 
since it goes with its God; if its life comes to an end, this it desires; 
if it lives a thousand years, this too it desires. Let His Majesty 
treat it as His own — the soul no longer belongs to itself. It is 
given over entirely to the Lord — it completely overlooks itself. 
I say that when God gives the soul so lofty a prayer, it can do 
all of this and much more since these are its effects. And it 
understands that it does so without tiring the intellect. I only 
think it is amazed at seeing how good a gardener the Lord is 
and how He doesn't desire it to do any of the work other than 
delight in the fragrance the flowers are beginning to give. For 
in one of these visits, however brief, the water is given without 
measure because the gardener is who He is — in truth, the creator 
of the water. And what the poor soul could not achieve in about 
twenty years with its labors to bring repose to the intellect, this 
heavenly gardener accomplishes in a moment. And the fruit 
grows and matures in such a way that the soul can be sustained 
from its garden if the Lord so desires. But He doesn't give it 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 17 


permission to distribute fruit until it is very strong from what 
it has eaten; otherwise it will be giving it to others to taste without 
their receiving any profit or gain, maintaining them and giving 
them to eat at its own cost; and perhaps i( will itself be left dead 
from hunger. This possibility has been well for those 
who are learned men, and they will know how to make the ap- 
plication better than I know how to explain it through my own 

3. In sum, the virtues are now stronger than in the previous 
prayer of quiet. The soul can't ignore them, because it seems 
that it is different and doesn't know how this happened. It begins 
to perform great deeds by means of the fragrance the flowers 
give, for the Lord desires that they bloom so that it may see that 
it possesses virtue although it is very clearly aware that it couldn't 
have acquired them — nor was it able to — in many years, and 
also that in that moment the heavenly gardener gave them. Here 
the humility that remains in the soul is much greater and more 
profound than in the past. The soul sees more clearly that it did 
neither little nor much other than consent to the Lord's favors 
and embrace them with its will. 

It seems to me this kind of prayer is a very apparent union 
of the whole soul with God. But seemingly His Majesty desires 
to give leeway to the faculties so that they may understand and 
rejoice in the many things He is accomplishing here. 

4. In order that your Reverence may see what can happen 
and understand when it does happen to you — at least I was con- 
fused for a while, and that's why I'm speaking of it here — let 
me say that it sometimes, or very often, comes about that while 
the will is united, the soul sees clearly and understands that the 
will is held fast and is rejoicing. I say "it sees clearly," and that 
the will alone is in deep quiet; and the intellect and the memory, 
on the other hand, are so free that they can tend to business 
affairs and engage in works of charity. 

Although this prayer seems entirely the same as the prayer 
of quiet I mentioned, 2 it is different — partly because in the 
prayer of quiet the soul didn't desire to move or stir, rejoicing 
in that holy idleness of Mary; and in this prayer it can also be 
Martha in such a way that it is as though engaged in both the 


St. Teresa of Avila 

active and contemplative life together. It tends to works of charity 
and to business affairs that have to do with its state of life and 
to reading; although it isn't master of itself completely. And it 
understands clearly that the best part of the soul is somewhere 
else. It's as though we were speaking to someone at our side and 
from the other side another person were speaking to us; we 
wouldn't be fully attentive to either the one or the other. This 
prayer is something that is felt very clearly, and it gives deep 
satisfaction and happiness when it is experienced. It is an ex- 
cellent preparation so that the soul may reach a profound quiet 
when it has time for solitude, or leisure from business matters. 
It causes the soul to go about like people whose appetite is satisfied 
and who have no need to eat but feel that they have taken enough 
so that they wouldn't desire just any kind of food; yet they are 
not so filled that they wouldn't eagerly eat some if it were tempt- 
ing to the appetite. The soul is therefore neither content with 
nor desirous of the world's satisfactions, because it has in itself 
what pleases it more; greater consolations from God — desires 
to satisfy its desire to enjoy Him more and to be with Him. Be- 
ing with Him is what it wants. 

5. There is another kind of union, which, although it is not 
a complete union, is greater than the union just mentioned but 
not as great as that which was mentioned in reference to this 
third water. 3 

Since the Lord may give them all to you if you have not already 
received them, your Reverence will be pleased to find them writ- 
ten down and will understand what they are. For it is one grace 
to receive the Lord's favor; another, to understand which favor 
and grace it is; and a third, to know how to describe and ex- 
plain it. And although no more than the first grace seems 
necessary, it is a great advantage and a gift for the soul that it 
also understand the favor so as not to go about confused and 
afraid — and so that it may become more courageous in follow- 
ing the path of the Lord, trampling under its feet all worldly 
things. Each one of these graces is a reason for those who receive 
it to praise the Lord greatly and, also, for those who may not 
receive it to praise Him because His Majesty gave it to one of 
the living so that that person might help the rest of us. 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 17 


Well, now, this kind of union I wish to explain often 
happens — especially to me since God frequently gives me this 
kind of favor. For God takes to Himself the will and even the 
intellect, it seems to me, so that it might not engage in discourse 
but be occupied with rejoicing in Him like those who are con- 
templating and who see so much that they don't know where 
to fix their gaze — looking now here, now there, without being 
able to perceive clearly any one thing. The memory remains free, 
but it seems to be joined with the imagination. And since it sees 
itself alone, 1 the war it wages is something to behold — how it 
strives to disturb everything. As for me, I find the memory 
tiresome and abhorrrent; and I often beseech the Lord that He 
take it away during these periods if it is going to bother me so 
much. Sometimes I say to Him: "When, my God, will my soul 
be completely joined together in Your praise and not broken 
in pieces, unable to make use of itself?" Here I see the evil that 
sin causes in us since it so holds us in its power that we cannot 
do what we desire to do in order to be always occupied in God. 

6. I say it sometimes happens to me — and today was one of 
these times, so I remember it vividly — that I see my soul become 
undone in the desire to be united there where the greater part 
is, and this is impossible; rather the imagination and memory 
carry on such a war that the soul is left powerless. Since the other 
faculties have ceased to function, these two are of no avail, not 
even for doing harm. They do a great deal though by their distur- 
bance. I say "not even for doing harm" because they do not have 
the strength nor can they concentrate on one thing. Since the 
intellect gives them neither much nor little assistance in what 
they represent to it, they don't rest in anything but flit from one 
thing to the other; they are like little moths at night, bother- 
some and annoying: so they go from one extreme to the other. 
This comparison, I think, gets to the point because they don't 
have the strength to do any harm — they are an annoyance to 
those who see them. 

I don't know what remedy there is for this since until now 
God hasn't made one known to me. I would be glad to find out 
one, for, as I say, the imagination and memory often torment 
me. Both our great misery and, very clearly, the tremendous 


St. Teresa of Avila 

power of God are manifested here. For the faculties that run 
loose weary and harm us so much; and those that are with His 
Majesty give us repose. 

7. The only remedy I have found, after having tired myself 
out for many years, is the one I mentioned in speaking of the 
prayer of quiet: 1 to pay no more attention to the memory than 
one would to a madman — leave it go its way, for only God can 
stop it and, in truth, here it remains as a slave. We must suffer 
it with patience as Jacob did Leah, for the Lord does us a great 
favor in allowing us to enjoy Rachel. b I say "it remains as a 
slave" because in fact the memory is unable — no matter what 
it does — to gather to itself the other faculties; rather, without 
any labor, they often make the memory come to them. 
Sometimes God is pleased to take pity when seeing the memory 
so lost and disturbed and desirous of being with the others, and 
His Majesty consents to its being burnt in the fire of that divine 
candle where the others are already reduced to dust since they 
have lost their natural being and are almost supernatural in their 
enjoyment of such great blessings. 

8. In all these ways in which this last water comes from the 
spring I mentioned, 7 the glory and repose of the soul is so great 
that the body very perceivably shares in that joy and delight; 
it does so "very perceivably," and the virtues are as advanced 
as I have mentioned. 8 

It seems that the Lord has desired to explain as much of these 
states in which the soul finds itself as can be understood here 
below Your Reverence can discuss this explanation with a 
spiritual person who has experienced these states and who is also 
learned. If he should say that the explanation is all right, believe 
that it was given by God and thank His Majesty very much for 
it. Because, as I have said, 9 with the passing of time in- 
dividuals will be very glad to understand what it is; even though 
they are given the grace to enjoy it, they aren't given the grace 
to understand it. If His Majesty has given you the grace to en- 
joy this prayer, you will through your intelligence and learning 
understand what is said here. May He be praised for everything 
throughout all ages, amen. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 18 


Chapter 18 

Discusses the fourth degree of prayer. Begins to offer an excellent explana- 
tion of the great dignity the Lord bestows upon the soul in this state. Gives 
much encouragement to those who engage in prayer that they might strive 
to attain so high a stage since it can be reached on earth, although not 
by merit but through God's goodness. This should be read attentively, for 
the explanation is presented in a very subtle way and there are many note- 
worthy things. 1 

MAY THE LORD TEACH ME the words necessary for 
explaining something about the fourth water. Clearly 
His favor is necessary, even more so than for what was explained 
previously. In the previous prayer, since the soul was conscious 
of the world, it did not feel that it was totally dead — for we can 
speak of this last prayer in such a way. But, as I said, 2 the soul 
has its senses by which it feels its solitude and understands that 
it is in the world; and it uses exterior things to make known what 
it feels, even though this may be through signs. 

In all the prayer and modes of prayer that were explained, 
the gardener does some work, even though in these latter modes 
the work is accompanied by so much glory and consolation for 
the soul that it would never want to abandon this prayer. As 
a result, the prayer is not experienced as work but as glory. In 
this fourth water the soul isn't in possession of its senses, but 
it rejoices without understanding what it is rejoicing in. It 
understands that it is enjoying a good in which are gathered 
together all goods, but this good is incomprehensible. All the 
senses are occupied in this joy in such a way that none is free 
to be taken up with any other exterior or interior thing. 

In the previous degrees, the senses are given freedom to show 
some signs of the great joy they feel. Here in this fourth water 
the soul rejoices incomparably more; but it can show much less 
since no power remains in the body, nor does the soul have any 
power to communicate its joy. At such a time, everything would 
be a great obstacle and a torment and a hindrance to its repose. 
And I say that if this prayer is the union of all the faculties, the 
soul is unable to communicate its joy even though it may desire 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to do so — I mean while being in the prayer. And if it were able, 
then this wouldn't be union. 

2. How this prayer they calf union comes about and what 
it is, I don't know how to explain. These matters are expound- 
ed in mystical theology; I wouldn't know the proper vocabulary. 
Neither do I understand what the mind is; nor do I know how 
it differs from the soul or the spirit. It all seems to be the same 
thing to me, although the soul sometimes goes forth from itself. 
The way this happens is comparable to what happens when a 
fire is burning and flaming, and it sometimes becomes a forceful 
blaze. The flame then shoots very high above the fire, but the 
flame is not by that reason something different from the fire but 
the same flame that is in the fire. Your Reverence with your 
learning will understand this, for I don't know what else to say. 

3. What I'm attempting to explain is what the soul feels when 
it is in this divine union. What union is we already know since 
it means that two separate things become one. O my Lord, how 
good You are! May You be blessed forever! May all things praise 
You, my God, for You have so loved us that we can truthfully 
speak of this communication which You engage in with souls 
even in our exile! And even in the case of those who are good, 
this still shows great generosity and magnanimity. In fact, it is 
Your communication, my Lord; and You give it in the manner 
of who You are. O infinite Largess, how magnificent are Your 
works! 4 It frightens those whose intellects are not occupied with 
things of the earth that they have no intellect by which they can 
understand divine truths. That You bestow such sovereign favors 
on souls that have offended You so much certainly brings my 
intellect to a halt; and when I begin to think about this, I'm 
unable to continue. Where can the intellect go that would not 
be a turning back since it doesn't know how to give You thanks 
for such great favors? Sometimes I find it a remedy to speak 

4. After I have just received these favors or when God is begin- 
ning to give them to me (for at the time one is receiving them 
as I have already mentioned there's no power to do anything), 
it often happens that I say: 

Lord, look what You are doing. Don't forget so quickly my 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 18 


great wickedness. Now that in order to pardon me You have 
forgotten it, I beseech You to remember it that You might put 
a limit on Your favors. Don't, my Creator, pour such precious 
liqueur in so broken a bottle; 5 You have already seen at other 
times how I only spill and waste it. Don't place a treasure like 
this in a place where cupidity for life's consolations is still not 
cast off as it should be; otherwise it will be badly squandered. 
How is it that You surrender the strength of this city and the 
keys to its fortress to so cowardly a mayor who at the first attack 
allows the enemy to enter? Don't let Your love be so great, eter- 
nal King, as to place in risk such precious jewels. It seems, my 
Lord, that the occasion is given for esteeming them but little 
since You put them in the power of a thing so wretched, so low- 
ly, so weak and miserable, and of so little importance. For 
although she strives with Your help not to lose them (and there 
is need for more than a little effort because of what I am), she 
cannot make use of them to win over anyone. In sum, she is 
a woman; and not a good but a wretched one. It seems that the 
talents are not only hidden but even buried 6 by being placed 
in such vile earth. You are not accustomed, Lord, to bestow on 
a soul grandeurs and favors like these unless for the profit of 
many. You already know, my God, that with all my heart and 
will I beseech You and have besought You at times in the past 
that You grant these favors to someone who would make better 
use of them for the increase of Your glory — and that I would 
consider it a blessing to lose the greatest earthly good possessable 
in order that You do so. 

5. These and other things it often occurred to me to say. I 
saw afterward my foolishness and lack of humility; the Lord well 
knows what is fitting and that I would not have the strength in 
my soul to be saved if His Majesty didn't give it to me through 
so many favors. 

6. I also intend to speak of the graces and effects that are left 
in the soul, of whether it can do something on its own to reach 
so great a state, and of what this something might be. 

7. The elevation of the spirit, or joining with heavenly love, 
which I shall describe, takes place within this very union. 7 The 
union, as I understand it, is different from the elevation. It will 


St. Teresa of Avila 

seem to anyone who may not have experienced this elevation 
of the spirit that there is no difference between the two; but, 
in my opinion, though they are one, the Lord works differently 
in each case. And in the flight of the spirit this difference is seen 
by a much greater increase in detachment from creatures. I have 
perceived clearly that the elevation of the spirit is a particular 
favor, even though as I say it may be the same as union or ap- 
pear to be so. A small fire is just as much a fire as is a large 
one. Through this example one can see the difference there is 
between union and elevation of the spirit. In a small fire it takes 
a lot of time for a piece of iron to become red-hot. But if the 
fire is great, the piece of iron, even though large, will in a short 
time lose its entire being — or it will appear to do so. This ex- 
ample, it seems to me, shows what the difference between the 
two favors from the Lord is like. I know that anyone who has 
reached the experience of raptures will understand the difference 
well. To one who has no experience the explanation will seem 
confusing, and it could well be. It is not surprising that there 
is confusion when a person like myself wants to speak of such 
a thing and to give some explanation of an experience that it 
seems one cannot even begin to put into words. 

8. But I believe the Lord will help me in this explanation. 
His Majesty knows that besides obeying it is my intention to 
attract souls to so high a blessing. I shall say nothing about things 
of which I don't have much experience. And it is a fact that when 
I began to write about this last water it seemed impossible to 
know how to speak of it without making it sound like Greek; 
for it is very difficult to explain. So I set the work aside and went 
to receive Communion. Blessed be the Lord who so favors the 
ignorant! O virtue of obedience that can do all things! God 
enlightened my intellect: sometimes with words, at other times 
showing me how to explain this favor, as He did with the previous 
prayer. 8 His Majesty, it seems, wanted to say what I neither 
was able nor knew how to say. 

What I am telling is the complete truth, and so whatever is 
good is His doctrine; whatever is bad clearly comes from the 
ocean of evil that I am. Thus I say that if persons who had 
reached the experiences in prayer that the Lord has favored this 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 18 


miserable creature with — and there must be many — wanted to 
speak to me of these because they thought they had gone astray, 
the Lord would help His servant to show them the true way. 

9. Well now, let us speak of this heavenly water that in its 
abundance soaks and saturates this entire garden: if the Lord 
were always to give it when there is need, the gardener would 
evidently have it easy. And if there were no winter and the 
weather were always mild, there would be no lack of flowers and 
fruit. It is obvious how delighted the gardener would be. But 
this is impossible while we are living on this earth. Individuals 
must always take care so that when one kind of water is lacking 
they might strive for the other. This water from heaven often 
comes when the gardener is least expecting it. True, in the begin- 
ning it almost always occurs after a long period of mental prayer. 
The Lord comes to take this tiny bird from one degree to another 
and to place it in the nest so that it may have repose. Since He 
has seen it fly about for a long time, striving with the intellect 
and the will and all its strength to see God and please Him, He 
desires to reward it even in this life. And what a tremendous 
reward; one moment is enough to repay all the trials that can 
be suffered in life! 

10. While the soul is seeking God in this way, it feels with 
the most marvelous and gentlest delight that everything is almost 
fading away through a kind of swoon in which breathing and 
all the bodily energies gradually fail. This experience comes about 
in such a way that one cannot even stir the hands without a lot 
of effort The eyes close without one's wanting them to close; 
or if these persons keep them open, they see hardly anything — 
nor do they read or succeed in pronouncing a letter, nor can 
they hardly even guess what the letter is. They see the letter; 
but since the intellect gives no help, they don't know how to read 
it even though they may desire to do so. They hear but don't 
understand what they hear. Thus they receive no benefit from 
the senses — unless it be that these latter do not take away their 
pleasure, since doing so would cause harm. In vain do they try 
to speak because they don't succeed in forming a word, nor if 
they do succeed is there the strength left to be able to pronounce 
it. All the external energy is lost, and that of the soul is increased 


St. Teresa of Avila 

so that it might better enjoy its glory. The exterior delight that 
is felt is great and very distinct. 

1 1 . This prayer causes no harm, no matter how long it lasts. 
At least it never caused me any, nor do I recall the Lord ever 
having granted me this favor that I didn't feel much better after- 
ward no matter how ill I had been before. But what illness can 
produce so wonderful a blessing? The external effects are so ap- 
parent that one cannot doubt that a great event has taken place; 
these external powers are taken away with such delight in order 
to leave greater ones. 

12. It is true that in the beginning this prayer passes so 
quickly — at least it happened this way to me — that neither these 
exterior signs nor the failure of the senses are very noticeable. 
But the soul well understands that the sun's brightness therein 
was powerful since it melted the soul away. It is noteworthy that 
the longest space of time, in my opinion, in which the soul re- 
mains in this suspension of all the faculties is very short; should 
it remain suspended for a half hour, this would be a very long 
time. I don't think I ever experienced this suspension for so long. 
It is true that since there is no sensory consciousness one finds 
it hard to know what is happening. But I am saying that in an 
occurrence of this prayer only a short time passes without one 
of the faculties returning to itself. It is the will that holds high 
the banner; 9 the other two faculties quickly go back to being a 
bother. Since the will remains quiet, the others are again suspend- 
ed for a little while — then return again to life. 

13. In this way a person can and in fact does spend several 
hours in prayer. Once the two faculties have begun to taste the 
divine wine and be inebriated by it, 10 they easily lose 
themselves again so as to gain much more; and they accompany 
the will, and all three rejoice. But I say this loss of them all and 
suspension of the imagination — which as I understand it is also 
completely lost — lasts only a short while; yet these faculties don't 
return to themselves so completely that they are incapable of 
remaining for several hours as though bewildered while God 
gradually gathers them again to Himself. 

14. Now let us come to what the soul experiences here interior- 
ly. Let those who know how speak of it since it cannot be 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 18 


understood — much less put into words! 

After having received Communion and been in this very 
prayer I'm writing about, I was thinking when I wanted to write 
something on it of what the soul did during that time. The Lord 
spoke these words to me: "It detaches itself from everything, 
daughter, so as to abide more in me. It is no longer the soul 
that lives but I. Since it cannot comprehend what it understands, 
there is an understanding by not understanding." 

Whoever may have experienced this prayer will know 
something about it; since what happens is so obscure, it can't 
be explained more clearly. I can only say that the soul appears 
to be joined to God, and there remains such certitude about this 
union that the soul cannot help believing in the truth of it. In 
this prayer all the faculties fail and they are so suspended that 
in no way, as I said, 11 does one think they are working. If a 
person is reflecting upon some scriptural event, it becomes as 
lost to the memory as it would be if there had never been any 
thought of it. If the person reads, there is no remembrance of 
what was read; nor is there any remembrance if one prays vocal- 
ly. Thus this bothersome little moth, which is the memory, gets 
its wings burnt here; it can no longer move. The will is fully 
occupied in loving, but it doesn't understand how it loves. The 
intellect, if it understands, doesn't understand how it understands; 
at least it can't comprehend anything of what it understands. 
It doesn't seem to me that it understands, because, as I say, it 
doesn't understand — I really can't understand this! 

15. In the beginning I was ignorant about a certain matter 
because I didn't know that God was in all things, and though 
He seemed so present to me, I thought this omnipresence was 
impossible. I couldn't stop believing that He was there since it 
seemed to me that I understood almostly clearly that He was 
there by His very presence. Those who had no learning told me 
that He was present only by grace. I couldn't believe this, 
because, as I say, it seemed to me He was present; and so I was 
troubled. A very learned man from the order of the glorious St. 
Dominic 12 freed me from this doubt, for he told me that God 
was present and of how God communicates Himself to us; these 
truths consoled me tremendously. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

It should be noted and understood that this heavenly water, 
this magnificent favor from the Lord, always leaves great fruits 
in the soul as I shall now explain. 

Chapter 19 

Continues on the same subject. Begins to explain the effects this degree 
of prayer produces in the soul. Strongly urges souls not to turn back, even 
if they fall again after receiving this favor, and not to give up prayer. Speaks 
of the harm that results from abandoning prayer . This chapter is very im- 
portant and most consoling for the weak and for sinners. 

THIS PRAYER AND UNION leaves the greatest 
tenderness in the soul in such a way that it would want to be 
consumed not from pain but from the joyous tears. It finds itself 
bathed in them without having felt them or knowing when or 
how it shed them. But it receives great delight in seeing that 
the driving force of that fire is quenched by a water that makes 
the fire increase. This sounds like gibberish, but that's what hap- 
pens. It sometimes happened to me in this kind of prayer that 
I was so taken out of myself that I didn't know whether I was 
dreaming or whether the glory I was experiencing was indeed 
occurring. Seeing myself soaked by the water that came forth 
so forcefully and quickly and that seemingly poured from that 
heavenly cloud, I perceived that my experience had not been 
a dream. This prayer occurred in such a way at the beginning 
when it passed quickly. 

2. The soul becomes so courageous that if at that moment it 
were cut in pieces for God, it would be greatly consoled. Such 
prayer is the source of heroic promises, of resolutions, and of 
ardent desires; it is the beginning of contempt for the world 
because of a clear perception of the world's vanity. The soul is 
much more improved and in a higher state than it was after the 
previous degrees of prayer. Its humility is deeper because it sees 
plainly that through no diligence of its own did it receive that 
very generous and magnificent gift and that it played no role 
in obtaining or experiencing it. Since there is no hidden cobweb 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 19 


in a room where much sun enters, the soul sees clearly that it 
is most unworthy; it sees its misery. Vainglory goes off so far 
that it doesn't seem possible for the soul to have any. Since there 
was hardly even any consent there, it now with its own eyes sees 
it is capable of little or nothing. It seems, though it didn't desire 
this, that the door of all the senses was closed to it that it might 
be better able to enjoy the Lord. It remains alone with Him. 
What has it to do but love Him? It neither sees nor hears save 
by much effort. There is not much to thank the soul for. After- 
ward, with striking truth, its past life and the great mercy of 
God are shown to it. The intellect doesn't have to go hunting 
for this knowledge because it beholds there, all cooked and 
prepared, what it must eat and understand. It perceives that it 
merits hell and that yet it is chastised with glory. It consumes 
itself in the praises of God — and I would want to be consumed 
now. May You be blessed, my Lord, that from such filthy mud 
as I, You make water so clear that it can be served at Your table! 
May You be praised, O Joy of the angels, for having desired 
to raise up a worm so vile! 

3. This progress in virtue remains for some time with the soul. 
It can now, with clear understanding that the fruits are not its 
own, begin to distribute them since it has no need of them. It 
starts to show signs of a soul that guards heavenly treasures and 
has the desire to share them with others, and it beseeches God 
that it may not be the only rich one. It begins to be of benefit 
to its neighbors almost without knowing it or doing anything 
of itself. They recognize it because now the fragrance of the 
flowers has reached the point in which it attracts others. The 
soul understands that it has virtues, and its neighbors see the 
desirable fruit. They would like to help it eat this fruit. If the 
soil is well cultivated by trials, persecutions, criticisms, and 
illnesses — for few there must be who reach this stage without 
them — and if it is softened by living in great detachment from 
self-interest, the water soaks it to the extent that it is almost never 
dry. But if the soil is still hardened in the earth and has a lot 
of briers, as I did in the beginning, and is still not so removed 
from occasions and if it doesn't have the gratitude a favor as great 
as this deserves, the ground will dry up again. And if the gardener 


St. Teresa of Avila 

becomes careless and the Lord solely out of His goodness does 
not desire to let the rains come again, the garden can be con- 
sidered as lost. So it happened to me sometimes. I am certainly 
amazed; if it hadn't befallen me, I'd be unable to believe it. I 
write this for the consolation of weak souls like myself that they 
might never despair or fail to trust in the greatness of God. Even 
though they may fall after elevations like the ones to which the 
Lord here orings them, they ought not to grow discouraged if 
they don't want to become completely lost. For tears gain all 
things: one water draws down the other. 

4. That one ought not to grow discouraged is one of the reasons 
that encouraged me — being what I am — to obey and write an 
account of my wretched life and of the favors the Lord granted 
me without rny serving Him but rather offending Him. 1 should 
certainly like to have a great deal of authority in this matter so 
that I might be believed. I beseech the Lord to give it. I say 
that no one who has begun to practice prayer should become 
discouraged by saying: "If 1 return to evil, matters will become 
worse should I continue the practice of prayer." I believe mat- 
ters become worse if one abandons prayer and doesn't amend 
one's evil ways. But if people don't abandon it, they may believe 
that prayer will bring them to the harbor of light. The devil car- 
ried out a great assault upon me in this matter. Since I was 
wretched, I spent so long a time in thinking it was a lack of 
humility to practice prayer that, as I have already said, I aban- 
doned it for a year and a half— 1 at least for a year; I don't 
remember well about the half. And doing this was no more, nor 
could it have been, than putting myself right in hell without the 
need of devils to urge me on. Oh, God help me, what great blind- 
ness! And how right the devil is to direct his attacks so that the 
soul give up prayer! The traitor knows that he has lost the soul 
that practices prayer perseveringly and that all the falls he helps 
it to take assist it afterward, through the goodness of God, to 
make a great leap forward in the Lord's service. No wonder he's 
so concerned! 

5. O my Jesus! What a sight it is when You through Your 
mercy return to offer Your hand and raise up a soul that has 
fallen in sin after having reached this stage! How such a soul 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 19 


knows the multitude of Your grandeurs and mercies and its own 
misery! In this state it is in truth consumed and knows Your 
splendors. Here it doesn't dare raise its eyes, and here it raises 
them up so as to know what it owes You. Here it becomes a 
devotee of the Queen of heaven so that she might appease You; 
here it invokes the help of the saints that fell after having been 
called by You. 2 Here it seems that everything You give it is 
undeserved because it sees that it doesn't merit the ground on 
which it treads. Here, in approaching the sacraments, it has the 
living faith to see the power that God has placed in them; it 
praises You because You have left such a medicine and oint- 
ment for our wounds and because this medicine not only covers 
these wounds but takes them away completely. 3 It is amazed 
by all this. And who, Lord of my soul, wouldn't be amazed by 
so much mercy and a favor so large for a betrayal so ugly and 
abominable? I don't know why my heart doesn't break as I write 
this! For I am a wretched person! 

6. With these little tears, given by You, that I shed — water, 
on my part, from so loathsome a well — it seems I repay You 
for all my betrayals, in which I always do evil and strive to un- 
do the favors You've granted me. Place a value, my Lord, upon 
these tears. Cleanse this water so foul lest others be tempted to 
make judgments, as happened to me, when they wonder why, 
Lord, You abandon some very holy persons who have always 
served and labored for You, who were brought up religiously 
and who are truly religious (and not like myself who was a 
religious only in name), and when they see clearly that You do 
not grant them the favors you do me. I well perceived, my God, 
that You keep the reward so as to give it to those holy persons 
all together and that I need this reward because of my weakness. 
Now they, like strong men, serve You without these favors; and 
You deal with them as with a fortified people and not a self- 
interested one. 

7. Nevertheless, You know, my Lord, that I often called out 
to You to excuse those persons who criticized me because it 
seemed to me they were more than right. This occurred, Lord, 
after You kept me, out of your goodness, from offending You 
so much and when I was turning aside from all that it seemed 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to me could anger You. When I did this, You began, Lord, to 
open Your treasures to Your handmaid. It doesn't seem You 
were waiting for anything other than the will and readiness in 
me to receive them since You quickly began not only to give 
them but to desire that others know You were giving them. 

8. Once others knew this, I began to be held in esteem by 
those who had not yet realized what a wretched person I was 
however much this evil showed through. Suddenly the criticism 
and persecution began; but, in my opinion, with every reason. 
So I didn't bear ill-will toward anybody, but besought You to 
observe how right they were. They said I was trying to make 
myself out to be a saint and was inventing novelties without then 
even having attained to the full observance of my rule or to the 
level of the very good and holy nuns there were in the house. 
(Nor do I myself believe I will ever arrive if God in His goodness 
doesn't do everything Himself.) They said that rather it was I 
who was taking away the good customs and introducing those 
that were not — at least that I was doing what I could to introduce 
them and that I was capable of causing a great deal of harm. 
So without any fault on their part they accused me. I don't say 
that only the nuns did this, but there were other persons as well. 
They revealed truths to me because You permitted this, Lord. 

9. Once, in the midst of such persecution, while reciting the 
Hours, I came to the verse that says: Justus es, Domine, and Your 
judgments.* I began to think of what a great truth this was. For 
the devil never had the power to tempt me to doubt that You, 
my Lord, possess all good things, or to tempt me in any matter 
of faith; rather it seemed to me that the more the things of faith 
go beyond what is natural the stronger the faith — and this thought 
enkindled great devotion in me. Just believing that You are all 
powerful was enough for me to receive all the grandeurs that 
You work, and this power, as I say, I never doubted. Thus, while 
I was thinking that You justly permit that there be many, as 
I have mentioned, 5 who are very good servants of Yours and 
yet do not receive these gifts and favors You grant me because 
of what I am, You answered me, Lord: "Serve me, and don't 
bother about such things." This was the first locution I heard 
You speak to me, and so I was very frightened. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 19 


Since, among other things, I shall afterward explain 6 this 
manner of understanding, I will not speak of it here; it would 
be off the subject — and I think I've already gone far off. I hard- 
ly know what I've said. It can't be otherwise, my son; your 
Reverence must endure these digressions. When I see what pa- 
tience God has had with me and see myself in this state, it doesn't 
take much to lose the thread of what I'm saying and intend to 
say. May it please the Lord that my follies be always like these, 
and may His Majesty no longer allow me to have the power to 
offend Him the least bit; rather, may I be consumed in this 

10. What I've said is enough now for beholding His great mer- 
cies, not the one time but the many times He has pardoned so 
much ingratitude. Saint Peter, You pardoned once when he was 
ungrateful; me, You pardoned many times. 7 With what reason 
the devil tempted me not to pretend to be a friend with one whom 
I treated publicly like an enemy. What terrible blindness mine 
was! Where, my Lord, did I think I could find a remedy save 
in You? What folly; to flee from the light so as to be always 
stumbling! Such proud humility the devil invented in me: 
withdrawing from the column and the staff which were my sup- 
port against a fall so great! Now I make the sign of the cross 
with amazement, and it doesn't seem to me that I underwent 
any danger as bad as with this invention the devil taught me 
under the pretext of humility. He put the thought in my head 
to question how, since I was so wretched and had received so 
many favors, I could engage in prayer; and the thought that it 
was enough for me to recite, like everyone else, my obligatory 
vocal prayers; and the question about how I could pretend to 
do more since I didn't even say my vocal prayers well; he sug- 
gested that engaging in prayer showed a lack of reverence and 
little esteem for the favors of God. 

It was right to think about and understand these things; but 
to give up the practice of prayer was the greatest evil. May You 
be blessed, Lord, who came to my rescue. 

1 1 . It seems to me that this was the way the devil began to 
tempt Judas, except that in my case this traitorous devil did not 
work so openly; but little by little he did to me what he did to 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Judas. For the love of God let all those who practice prayer 
observe this. Let them know that during the time in which I 
was without prayer my life was much worse. Look at the good 
remedy the devil gave me and the charming humility — the great 
disquiet within me. But how could I quiet my soul? It was los- 
ing its calm; it remembered favors and gifts; it saw that this 
world's pleasures are disgusting. How it was able to go on amazes 
me. I did so by means of hope because I never thought (insofar 
as I now recall, for this must have happened twenty-one years 
ago) I would cease being determined to return to prayer — but 
I was waiting to be very purified of sin. Oh, how wrong was 
the direction in which I was going with this hope ! The devil would 
have kept me hoping until judgment day and then have led me 
into hell. 

12. Through the practice of prayer and spiritual reading I knew 
the truths and the bad road I was following and often entreated 
the Lord with many tears, but I was so wretched that these were 
of no avail. Separated from prayer, taken up with many pastimes 
and placed in many occasions with few aids — and I dare say 
none, unless they were aids to my falling — what was there to 
hope for except hell, as I mentioned? 

I believe that a Dominican friar, 8 a very learned man, is 
worthy of merit in the sight of God, for he woke me from this 
sleep if not completely from my evil ways. He made me receive 
Communion, as I believe I mentioned, every fifteen days. I began 
to return to my senses, although I didn't cease offending the Lord. 
But since I hadn't lost the way, I advanced on it, even though 
very gradually, by falling and rising. And the one who doesn't 
fail to walk and advance on it shall arrive even though late. I 
don't think losing the way means anything else than giving up 
prayer. May God free us because of who He is! 

13. My experience explains — and close attention should be 
given to it for the love of the Lord — that even though a soul may 
reach the stage in which God grants it such wonderful favors 
in prayer, it should not trust in itself; it can fall. Nor should 
it in any way place itself in the occasions of falling. This should 
be carefully noted because it is very important. The deception 
the devil can afterward cause in this matter, even though the 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 19 


favor is certainly from God, is that the traitor profits as much 
as he can from this same gift. He deceives persons who are not 
advanced in the virtues, or mortified, or detached. They are not 
strong enough, as I shall say, 9 to enter into the midst of occa- 
sions and dangers, no matter how great their desires and resolu- 
tions. This doctrine is excellent, and it is not mine, but taught 
by God. And so I would want ignorant persons, like myself, to 
know it. Even though a soul may be in this state, it must not 
trust itself in going out to battle, for it will have a hard time 
defending itself. Here one needs arms to defend oneself against 
devils, and persons in this state do not yet have the strength to 
fight against them and trample them under foot as do those who 
are in the state I shall afterward speak about. 10 

14. The devil plays a trick on the soul. Since it sees itself so 
close to God and perceives the difference there is between heaven- 
ly and earthly goods and the love the Lord shows it, it gains 
confidence from this love and the feeling of security that it will 
not fall away from what it enjoys. It thinks it clearly sees the 
reward and that it is no longer possible for it to abandon 
something that, even in this life, is so delightful and pleasing 
for anything as foul and base as earthly pleasure. And by means 
of this confidence the devil takes away its lowly estimation of 
itself. Believing it has no longer anything to fear from itself, as 
I say, the soul places itself in dangers and begins with splendid 
zeal to give away fruit without measure. It doesn't do this with 
pride; it well understands that of itself it can do nothing. It does 
it with great confidence in God, but without discretion since it 
doesn't observe that it is still a fledgling. It can leave the nest, 
and God takes it out; but it is still not ready to fly. The virtues 
are not yet strong, nor does it have the experience to recognize 
dangers, nor does it know the harm done by relying upon oneself. 

15. This self-reliance was what destroyed me. For this reason 
and for every reason there is need of a master and for discus- 
sions with spiritual persons. I truly believe that God will not fail 
to favor the soul that reaches this state; nor will He allow it to 
be lost, unless it completely abandons His Majesty. But when, 
as I have said, 11 it falls, it should be extremely careful for the 
love of the Lord not to be tricked into giving up prayer, as I 


St. Teresa of Avila 

was by the devil through false humility — as I have already 
said 12 and would like to say many times. It should trust in the 
goodness of God, which is greater than all the evils we are capable 
of. And He doesn't remember our ingratitude when we, although 
knowing about it, desire to return to His friendship; nor does 
He remember the favors He bestowed on us as punishment for 
these evils. On the contrary, all of this helps us to receive par- 
don more quickly as members of His household who have eaten, 
as I say, from His table. Souls should remember His words 13 
and see what He did with me; before I grew tired of offending 
Him, His Majesty began to pardon me. He never tires of giv- 
ing, nor can He exhaust His mercies. Let us not tire of receiv- 
ing. May He be blessed forever, amen — and may all things praise 

Discusses the differences between union and rapture. Explains the nature 
of rapture and tells something about the good possessed by the soul that 
the Lord in His kindness brings to this prayer of rapture. Tells of its ef- 
fects. There is much to marvel over. 


A God's help, the difference there is between union and rapture, 
or, as they call it, elevation or flight of the spirit, or transport, 
which are all the same. I mean that these latter terms, though 
different, refer to the same thing; it is also called ecstasy. 1 The 
advantage rapture has over union is great. The rapture produces 
much stronger effects and causes many other phenomena. Union 
seems the same at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end; 
and it takes place in the interior of the soul. But since these other 
phenomena are of a higher degree, they produce their effect both 
interiorly and exteriorly. May the Lord explain as He did for 
the other degrees. Certainly, if His Majesty had not given me 
an understanding of the manners and ways in which something 
could be said about them, I would not have known how to speak 
of them. 


Chapter 20 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 20 


2. Let us consider now that the last water we spoke of 2 is so 
plentiful that, if it were not for the fact that the earth doesn't 
allow it, we could believe that this cloud of His great Majesty 
is with us here on earth. But when we thank Him for this wonder- 
ful blessing, responding with works according to our strength, 
the Lord gathers up the soul, let us say now, in the way the clouds 
gather up the earthly vapors 5 and raises it completely out of 
itself. The cloud ascends to heaven and brings the soul along, 
and begins to show it the things of the kingdom that He prepared 
for it. I don't know if this comparison is holding together, but 
the truth of the matter is that this is what happens. 

3. In these raptures it seems that the soul is not animating 
the body. Thus there is a very strong feeling that the natural 
bodily heat is failing it. The body gradually grows cold, although 
this happens with the greatest ease and delight. At this stage there 
is no remedy that can be used to resist. In the union, since we 
are upon our earth, there is a remedy; though it may take pain 
and effort one can almost always resist. But in these raptures 
most often there is no remedy; rather, without any forethought 
or any help there frequently comes a force so swift and power- 
ful that one sees and feels this cloud or mighty eagle raise it up 
and carry it aloft on its wings. 

4. 1 say that one understands and sees oneself carried away 
and does not know where. Although this experience is delightful, 
our natural weakness causes fear in the beginning. It is necessary 
that the soul be resolute and courageous — much more so than 
for the prayer already described — in order to risk all, come what 
may, and abandon itself into the hands of God and go willingly 
wherever it is brought since, like it or not, one is taken away. 
So forceful is this enrapturing that very many times I wanted 
to resist and used all my energy, especially sometimes when it 
happened in public or other times when in secret and I was afraid 
of being deceived. At times I was able to accomplish something, 
but with a great loss of energy, as when someone fights with 
a giant and afterward is worn out. At other times it was impossi- 
ble for me to resist, but it carried off my soul and usually, too, 
my head along with it, without my being able to hold back — 
and sometimes the whole body until it was raised from the 


St. Teresa of Avila 


5. This latter has happened rarely. Once it happened when 
we were together in the choir ready to go up to receive Com- 
munion and while I was kneeling. I was very distressed because 
the experience seemed to me to be something most extraordinary 
and it would then become widely known. So I ordered the 
nuns — for this happened recently while I held the office of 
prioress — not to say anything about it. But at other times when 
I began to see the Lord was going to do the same (and once when 
there were some ladies of nobility present in order to hear a ser- 
mon, for it was our titular feast), 4 I stretched out on the floor 
and the nuns came and held me down; nonetheless, this was 
seen. I begged the Lord very much not to give me any more 
favors that would involve any outward show, for I was tired of 
being considered so important — and His Majesty could grant 
me that favor without it being known. It seems in His goodness 
He was pleased to hear me because up to the present I have never 
had this experience again; true, I made this petition not so long 
ago. 5 

6. It seems to have happened that when I desired to resist them, 
such great powers raised me up from the very soles of my feet 
that I don't know what to compare these powers to; they were 
much greater than in the other spiritual experiences — and so I 
was worn out. The struggle is a fierce one, and in the end struggle 
is of little avail against the Lord's desire; there is no power against 
His power. At other times He is pleased that we see He desires 
to grant as the favor and that nothing is lacking on His Majes- 
ty's part; and when we resist out of humility, the very same ef- 
fects are left in the soul that would be left if it were to give com- 
plete consent. 

7. In those to whom this experience happens, the effects are 
remarkable. First, there is a manifestation of the tremendous 
power of the Lord and of how we are incapable, when His Ma- 
jesty desires, of holding back the body any more than the soul, 
nor are we its master. Rather, whether or not we wish, we see 
that there is one who is superior, that these favors are given by 
Him, and that of ourselves we can do absolutely nothing; deep 
humility is impressed upon the soul. Yet I confess that the favor 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 20 


greatly frightened me; at first the fear is extreme. When one 
sees one's body so elevated from the ground that even though 
the spirit carries it along after itself, and does so very gently if 
one does not resist, one's feelings are not lost. At least I was con- 
scious in such a way that T could understand I was being elevated. 
There is revealed a majesty about the One who can do this that 
makes a person's hair stand on edge, and there remains a strong 
fear of offending so awesome a God. Yet such fear is accom- 
panied by a very great love for Him, which grows ever deeper 
upon considering what He does to so rotten a worm. It doesn't 
seem He is satisfied in truly bringing the soul to Himself, but 
it seems He desires the body even though it is mortal and, on 
account of the many offenses it has committed, made of such 
foul clay. 

8. The experience also leaves a rare detachment, which I am 
unable to describe. It seems to me that I can say the prayer is 
in a certain way different. I mean that more than spiritual things 
alone are involved. For now that the spirit is completely detached 
from things, it seems in this prayer that the Lord wants to effect 
this detachment in the body itself, and there is brought about 
a new estrangement from earthly things that makes life much 
more arduous. 

9. Afterward there is a painful experience that we cannot pro- 
duce ourselves, nor once it is felt can we put it aside. I should 
like so much to explain this deep pain. I believe I'll be unable 
to do so, but I'll try to say something. It should be noted that 
these experiences occur much later than all the visions and revela- 
tions I shall write of. 6 The time I used to spend in a prayer in 
which the Lord gave me such great consolations and gifts — even 
though these are not completely absent — is now usually spent 
in this painful prayer I shall speak of. It is sometimes more in- 
tense, sometimes less intense. I want to speak now of when it 
is more intense. For although I shall speak afterward 7 of those 
great loving impulses that I experienced when the Lord desired 
to give me raptures, those impulses are no more, in my opinion, 
than something that is very corporeal when compared to 
something very spiritual — and I don't think I'm greatly exag- 
gerating. For in the pain that is experienced in those impulses, 


St. Teresa of Avila 

the body feels it along with the soul, and both seem to have a 
share in it; there is not as extreme a desolation as is felt in this 
pain. In receiving this pain, as I said, we play no active role, 
but often a desire comes unexpectedly in a way I don't under- 
stand. With this desire, which penetrates the whole soul at once, 
the soul begins to grow so weary that it ascends far above itself 
and all creatures. God places it in a desert so distant from all 
things that, however, much it labors, it doesn't find a creature 
on earth that might accompany it — nor would it want to find 
one; it desires only to die in that solitude. That someone speak 
to it — and it wants to make every effort possible to speak — is 
of little avail since the spirit, no matter how much the soul tries, 
does not leave that solitude. And when it seems to me that God 
is then exceedingly far away, He at times communicates His 
grandeurs in the most strange manner thinkable. So one doesn't 
know how to speak of this communication, nor do I think anyone 
will believe me or understand it unless they have experienced 
it themselves. This communication is given not to console but 
to show the reason the soul has for becoming weary in the absence 
of a blessing that in itself contains all blessings. 

10. With this communication the desire increases and also the 
extreme sense of solitude in which, even though the soul is in 
that desert, it sees with a pain so delicate and penetrating that 
it can, I think, literally say: Vigilavi, etf actus sum sicut passer solitarius 
in tecto. 8 (And perhaps the royal prophet said it while being in 
the same solitude, although since he was a saint the Lord would 
have given him this experience in a more intense way.) Hence 
this verse then came to mind, for I think I saw it realized in 
myself. It consoled me to know that other persons — and such 
great ones — had experienced so extreme a solitude. Thus it seems 
that the soul is not in itself, but on the roof or housetop of itself 
and of all created things because it seems to me to be even above 
the very superior part of the soul. 

1 1 . At other times it seems the soul goes about as though com- 
pelled to say and ask itself: where is your God? 9 It is interesting 
to note that I didn't know what the vernacular of this verse was; 
after I understood it, I was consoled to see that the Lord had 
brought it to my mind without my having played any part in 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 20 


the matter. At other times I recalled what St. Paul says, that 
he is crucified to the world. 10 I am not saying that these words 
apply here; I realize they don't. But it seems to me that the soul 
is crucified since no consolation comes to it from heaven, nor 
is it in heaven; neither does it desire any from earth, nor is it 
on earth. Receiving no help from either side, it is as though 
crucified between heaven and earth. That which comes from 
heaven (which, as I said, 11 is so admirable a knowledge of God, 
very far above every desirable thing) causes more torment 
because the desire increases in such a way that, in my opinion, 
the intense pain sometimes takes away sensory consciousness; 
but this intensity lasts only a short time. The experience 
resembles the death agony with the difference that the suffering 
bears along with it such great happiness that I don't know what 
to compare it to. It is an arduous, delightful martyrdom since 
it admits no earthly thing representable to the soul, even if this 
be what is usually more pleasing to it. The soul, it seems, im- 
mediately hurls such things from itself. It clearly understands 
that it desires only its God. It doesn't love any particular aspect 
of Him, but loves Him all together and knows not what it loves. 
I say it "knows not" because the imagination doesn't represent 
anything; nor, in my opinion, do the faculties function during 
much of the time that this takes place. Just as it is joy that 
suspends the faculties in union and rapture, so it is pain that 
suspends them here. 

12. O Jesus! Who could give a good explanation of this prayer 
to your Reverence so that you could explain it to me? It is what 
my soul is now always experiencing. Usually when unoccupied 
it is placed in the midst of these anxious longings for death; and 
when it sees they are beginning, it fears that it will not die. But 
once in the midst of them, it would desire to spend the remainder 
of its life in this suffering, even though the suffering is so ex- 
cessive a person cannot endure it. Sometimes my pulse almost 
stops, according to what a number of the Sisters say who at times 
are near me and know more, and my arms are straight and my 
hands so stiff that occasionally I cannot join them. As a result, 
even the next day I feel pain in the pulse and in the body, as 
if the bones were disjoined. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

13. I sometimes really think that if this prayer continues as 
it does now, the Lord would be served if my life came to an end. 
In my opinion, a pain as great as this is sufficient to put an end 
to life, but I don't merit death. All my longing then is to die; 
nor" do I think about purgatory or of the great sins I've commit- 
ted by which I've merited hell. I am oblivious of everything in 
that anxious longing to see God; that desert and solitude seem 
to the soul better than all the companionship of the world. If 
anything could give the soul consolation, it would be to speak 
to someone who had suffered this torment. 

14. It is also a torment for the soul to see that even though 
it complains no one, seemingly, will believe it. This pain is so 
intense that the soul would not want solitude as before, nor would 
it want companionship with anyone other than one to whom it 
can complain. It is like a person suffocating with a rope around 
the neck and seeking to find relief. So it seems to me that this 
desire for companionship comes from our weakness, for the pain 
places us in danger of death. (Yes, this is what it certainly does. 
I have at times on account of my great illnesses and crises been 
in peril of death, as I mentioned; 12 and I believe it can be said 
that this danger is as great as all the others.) As a result, the 
desire the body and the soul have of not being separated is what 
makes one beg help in order to get relief. By speaking and com- 
plaining of the pain and by distracting itself, the soul seeks a 
remedy so as to live — much against the will of the spirit, or of 
its superior part, which would not want to break away from this 

15.1 don't know if I'm meeting with success in what I'm say- 
ing or if I know how to say it, but in my firm opinion this is 
what happens. See, your Reverence, what rest the soul can have 
in this life. That rest that it had — which was prayer and solitude, 
because through these the Lord comforted me — now usually con- 
sists of this torment. Yet the torment is so pleasing and seen to 
be so valuable that now the soul desires this more than all the 
favors previously experienced. The experience seems safer 
because it follows the way of the cross. It contains in itself a very 
precious consolation, in my opinion; the body shares only in the 
pain, and it is the soul alone that both suffers and rejoices on 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 20 


account of the joy and satisfaction the suffering gives. I don't 
know how this can happen, but it does. In my opinion, I would 
not trade this gift the Lord grants me (which comes from His 
hand and, as I said, 13 is in no way acquired by me, because it 
is very, very supernatural) for all those I shall speak of after- 
ward. I don't mean all those gifts taken together, but taken one 
by one. It must not be forgotten that this experience of pain comes 
after all those favors that are written of in this book, and it is 
what the Lord now grants me. 14 

16. When I was afraid in the beginning (as happens to me 
in the case of almost every gift the Lord gives me until His Ma- 
jesty assures me as I make progress), the Lord told me not to 
fear and to esteem this gift more than all the others He had 
granted me. In this pain the soul is purified and fashioned or 
purged like gold in the crucible so that the enameled gifts might 
be placed there in a better way, and in this prayer it is purged 
of what otherwise it would have to be purged of in purgatory. 

I clearly understood that it was a great favor, but I was left 
with much more assurance — and my confessor tells me that it 
is good. Although, since I am so wretched, I was afraid, I was 
never able to believe that it was bad; on the contrary, so abun- 
dant a blessing caused me fear when I remembered how poorly 
I merited it. Blessed be the Lord who is so good. Amen. 

17. It seems I've gone off the subject because I began to speak 
of raptures; 15 this that I have been speaking about is more than 
rapture, and so it leaves the effects I mentioned. 

18. Now let us return to raptures and speak of what is more 
common in them. I say that often, it seemed to me, the body 
was left so light that all its weight was gone, and sometimes this 
feeling reached such a point that I almost didn't know how to 
put my feet on the ground. Now when the body is in rapture 
it is as though dead, frequently being unable to do anything of 
itself. It remains in the position it was when seized by the rap- 
ture, whether standing or sitting, or whether with the hands 
opened or closed. Although once in a while the senses fail 
(sometimes it happened to me that they failed completely), this 
occurs rarely and for only a short time. But ordinarily the soul 
is disoriented. Even though it can't do anything of itself with 


St. Teresa of Avila 

regard to exterior things, it doesn't fail to understand and hear 
as though it were listening to something coming from far off. 
I do not say that it hears and understands when it is at the height 
of the rapture (I say "height" to refer to the times when the 
faculties are lost to other things because of their intense union 
with God), for then, in my opinion, it neither sees, nor hears, 
nor feels. But as I said in speaking of the previous prayer of 
union, 15 this complete transformation of the soul in God lasts 
only a short time; but while it lasts no faculty is felt, nor does 
the soul know what is happening in this prayer. Perhaps it doesn't 
know this because God doesn't want us to understand this while 
on earth; He knows we are incapable of doing so. I have seen 
this for myself. 

19. Your Reverence will ask how it is that the rapture 
sometimes lasts so many hours and occurs so often. What hap- 
pens in my case, as I said in speaking of the previous prayer, 
is that the rapture is experienced at intervals. The soul is often 
absorbed or, to put it better, the Lord absorbs it in Himself 
suspending all the faculties for a while and then, afterward, 
holding only the will suspended. It seems to me that the activity 
of these other two faculties is like that of the little pointer on 
the sundial that never stops. But when the Sun of justice wants 
to, He makes the faculties stop. This suspension of the two 
faculties, I say, is brief. But since the loving impulse and eleva- 
tion of the spirit was great, the will remains absorbed — even 
though these return to their noisy way — and, like the lord over 
all, causes those effects in the body. 17 Although the other two 
restless faculties desire to hinder it, they are the only enemies 
because the sense faculties do not hinder it. The will causes these 
sense faculties to be suspended because the Lord desires it so. 
For most of the time the eyes are closed even though we may 
not desire to close them; and if they are sometimes open, as I 
have already mentioned, 18 the soul doesn't notice or advert to 
what it sees. 

20. What it can do through its own power is much less in this 
prayer; and when the two faculties are again suspended in the 
union, there isn't much to do. For this reason whoever receives 
this favor f rom the Lord should not become disconsolate on seeing 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 20 


that the body is so bound for many hours and the intellect and 
the memory sometimes distracted. True, these faculties are or- 
dinarily absorbed in the praises of God or in desiring to com- 
prehend and understand what they have undergone — and even 
for this they are not fully awake but are like a person who has 
slept and dreamed for a long while and still hasn't completely 

2 1 . I'm explaining this at such length because I know that there 
are now, even in this place, 1Q persons to whom the Lord grants 
these favors. If those who guide them have not gone through 
this themselves, it may perhaps seem to these guides, especially 
if they aren't learned men, that these persons are as though dead 
during the rapture. And, as I shall say afterward, 20 what these 
persons suffer when their confessors do not understand them is 
a pity. Perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about. Your 
Reverence will understand whether I succeed in explaining myself 
since the Lord has already given you experience of this rapture — 
although since you haven't been experiencing it for a long time, 
perhaps you haven't observed it as much as I have. 

Thus, however hard I try to stir, there is not strength enough 
in the body for a good while to be able to do so; the soul carries 
off with it all this strength. Frequently the body is made healthy 
and stronger — for it was really sick and full of great sufferings — 
because something wonderful is given to it in that prayer. The 
Lord sometimes desires, as I say, that the body enjoy it since 
the body is now obedient to what the soul desires. After the soul 
returns to itself— if the rapture has been intense — it goes about 
for a day or two, or even three, with the faculties absorbed or 
as though stupefied; it seems to be outside itself. 

22. From this prayer comes the pain of having to return to 
everyday life; in this prayer wings sprout enabling one to fly 
with ease; the fledgling has shed its down; in this prayer Christ's 
banner is now completely raised. It seems just as though the 
custodian of this fortress climbs, or is taken up, to the highest 
tower to raise the banner for God. He looks at those below as 
one who is out of danger. He no longer fears dangers but rather 
desires them as someone who in a certain manner receives 
assurance there of victory. In it the soul sees very clearly how 


St. Teresa of Avila 

little everything here below should be esteemed and the trifle 
that it is. Whoever stands upon a height sees many things. The 
soul no longer wants to desire, nor would it want to have free 
will — and this is what I beg the Lord. It gives Him the keys of 
its will. 

Behold now the gardener is raised to the position of custo- 
dian. He desires to do nothing but the will of the Lord; nor does 
he want to be lord of himself or of anything — not even of a pear- 
tree in this garden. If there is something good in the garden, 
His Majesty distributes it. From here' on the soul desires nothing 
for itself; it wants its actions to be in complete conformity with 
His glory and His will. 

23, And the truth of the matter is that if the raptures arc 
authentic, all of this takes place; the soul receives the effects anc 
benefits that were mentioned. If these effects are not present, 
I would greatly doubt that the raptures come from God; on the 
contrary, I would fear lest they be caused by the rabies, as St. 
Vincent observed. 21 I understand and have seen through ex- 
perience that after an hour or less the soul is left with such 
freedom and dominion over all things that it doesn't know itself. 
It sees clearly that the good effects don't belong to it. It doesn't 
know how so much good was given it, but it well understands 
the tremendous benefit that each of these raptures bears with 
it There is no one who believes this if they haven't experienced 
it. Thus they don't believe the poor soul, because they have seen 
its wretchedness — and now so quickly see it strive after things 
demanding such courage. For soon the soul becomes obsessed 
with serving the Lord not just a little but as much as it can. They 
think this is a temptation and foolishness. Were they to under- 
stand that these desires don't spring from the soul but from the 
Lord to whom it has given the keys of its will, they wouldn't 
be surprised. 

24. I have the opinion that a soul that reaches this state no 
longer speaks or does anything for itself. This sovereign King 
takes care of all that it has to do. Oh, God help me, how clearly 
the meaning of the psalm is seen here; and how right are all those 
who long for the wings of a dove! 22 It is clearly understood that 
the flight is given to the spirit so that it may be elevated above 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 20 


every creature — and above itself first of all. The flight is an easy 
flight, a delightful one, a flight without noise. 

25. How great is the dominion of that soul brought here by 
the Lord; it beholds everything without being ensnared! How 
ashamed it feels of the time when it was ensnared! How fright- 
ened of its blindness! What pity it feels for those who are still 
in this blindness, especially if they are persons of prayer whom 
God already favors! It would want to cry out in order to make 
known how deceived they are — sometimes it even does so, and 
a thousand persecutions rain down upon its head. They con- 
sider this person lacking in humility, especially if she is a woman, 
and point out that she desires to teach the one from whom she 
should be learning. As a result they condemn this soul — and with 
reason — because they don't know the loving impulse that moves 
it. For at times the soul can't help but disillusion — nor endure 
not disillusioning — those whom it loves and desires to see freed 
from the prison of this life, since the life that it formerly lived 
was nothing else than a prisoner's life; nor does it seem to it to 
have been anything else than that. 

26. It deplores the time in which it was concerned about its 
reputation and deplores the deception it suffered in believing 
that what the world called honor was honor. It sees how this 
belief about honor is the greatest lie and that all of us are in- 
volved in it. It understands that authentic honor stands not with 
falsehood but with truth, judging what is something to be 
something, and what is nothing to be nothing, since everything 
that comes to an end is nothing and less than nothing and is 
not pleasing to God. 

27. The soul laughs to itself over the time when it esteemed 
money and coveted it, although in this matter of coveting money, 
I don't think I ever — and this is true — confessed a fault; but it 
was fault enough to have esteemed it. If with money I could have 
bought the good I now see in myself, I would have esteemed 
it highly; but I see that this good is won by giving up everything. 
What is it we buy with this money we desire? Is it something 
valuable? Is it something lasting? Oh, why do we desire it? 
Miserable is the rest achieved that costs so dearly. Frequently 
one obtains hell with money and buys everlasting fire and pain 


St. Teresa of Avila 

without end. Oh, if everyone would consider it unprofitable dirt, 
how harmoniously would the world proceed, how many lawsuits 
would be avoided! What friendship there would be among all 
if there were no self-interest about honor and money! I think 
this absence of self-interest would solve all problems. 

28. The soul sees such great blindness in pleasures and how 
with them one buys trouble — even for this life — and worry. What 
restlessness! What little happiness! What vain labor! In this 
prayer it sees not only serious faults and cobwebs in its soul but 
any speck of dust no matter how small because the sun is very 
bright. And so, no matter how much a soul labors to become 
perfect, if this Sun truly takes hold of it, everything is seen as 
very turbid. The soul is like water in a glass: the water looks 
very clear if the sun doesn't shine on it; but when the sun shines 
on it, it seems to be full of dust particles. This comparison is 
an exact one. Before being in this ecstasy the soul thinks it is 
careful about not offending God and that it is doing what it can 
in conformity with its strength. But once it is brought into prayer, 
which this Sun of justice bestows on it and which opens its eyes, 
it sees so many dust particles that it would want to close its eyes 
again. It is not yet so much a child of this powerful eagle that 
it can gaze steadily at this sun. But for the little time that it holds 
its eyes open, it sees that it is itself filled with mud. It recalls 
the psalm that says: Who will be just in Your Presence? 1 '* 

29. When it beholds this divine Sun, the brightness dazzles 
it; when it looks at itself, the mud covers its eyes; blind is this 
little dove. So, very frequently, it is left totally blind, absorbed, 
frightened, and in a swoon from the many grandeurs that it sees. 
In this stage true humility is gained so that the soul doesn't care 
at all about saying good things of itself, nor that others say them. 
The Lord, not the soul, distributes the fruit of the garden, and 
so nothing sticks to its hands. All the good it possesses is directed 
to God; if it says something about itself, it does so for God's glory. 
It knows that it owns nothing in the garden; and even should 
it desire to ignore this truth, it can't. Whether it wants to or not, 
it sees with its own eyes that the Lord makes it close them to 
all the things of the world so that it may keep them open for 
the understanding of truths. 

The Book of tlst Life -Chap. 21 


Che ,ter 21 

Continues and concludes the discussions of this last decree of prayer. Tells 
about what the soul that experiences this prav^ < 1 ' > ipon returning to 
life in the world and about the light the Lord giv:s u concerning the worlds 
illusions. It contains good doctrine. 

that there is no need here for the consent of this soul. It has 
already given itself to God, and it knows that it has willingly 
surrendered itself into His hands and that it cannot deceive Him, 
because He is aware of all things. Matters aren't as they are here 
on earth, for all of earthly life is filled with deception and duplici- 
ty: when you think you have won a friend, according to what 
is shown you, you afterward come to understand that that was 
all a lie. It isn't possible anymore to live in the midst of such 
intrigue, especially present where there is something to be gained. 

Blessed is the soul the Lord brings to the understanding of 
truth! Oh, how fit a state this is for kings! How much more 
worthwhile it would be for them to strive for this stage of prayer 
rather than for great dominion! What righteousness there would 
be in the kingdom! What evils they would avoid and have avoid- 
ed! In this stage one does not fear to lose one's life or honor for 
the love of God! What a great blessing this is for anyone who 
has a greater obligation to look after the honor of God than do 
all those who are subordinate, since these latter must follow their 
kings! For one fraction of an increase in faith and for having 
given some light to the heretics such a king would be willing 
to lose a thousand kingdoms — and rightly so; for the gain would 
be far greater: a kin rdom without an end, which, when the soul 
tastes only one drop oi its water, makes everything here below 
seem repulsive. How much more if the soul be immersed in this 

2. O Lord! Were You to give me the office by which I could 
shout this aloud, they would not believe me, as they do not believe 
many who know how to say this better than I; but at least it 
would be satisfying to me. It seems to me I would have held 
my life in little account in order to make known only one of these 


St. Teresa of Avila 

truths; I don't know what I might have done afterward, for I 
am not trustworthy. In spite of what I am, I experience great 
consuming impulses to tell these truths to those who are rulers. 
When I can do no more, I turn to You, my Lord, to beg of You 
a remedy for all. And You know well that I would very willing- 
ly dispossess myself of the favors You have granted me and give 
them to the kings, providing I could remain in a state in which 
I do not offend You; because I know that it would then be im- 
possible for them to consent to the things that are now consented 
to, nor would these favors fail to bring the greatest blessings. 

3. O my God! Give kings an understanding of their obliga- 
tions. For You have desired to point these kings out on earth 
in such a way that I have even heard it said that there are signs 
in heaven when You take one away. 2 Indeed, at the thought of 
this my devotion increases, that You, my King, desire that even 
by such happenings they realize that they must be imitators of 
You in life since at their death there is a sign in heaven, as when 
You died. 

4. I am becoming very bold. Tear this up if it sounds bad 
to your Reverence and believe me that I would say it better in 
person if I could, or if I thought they would believe me, for I 
very earnestly commend them to God and would like to be of 
some help. Everything makes the soul risk its life; I frequently 
desire to be without life, and the risk to gain much costs but 
little. There is no one now living who sees directly the great il- 
lusion in which we walk and the blindness we suffer. 

5. Once the soul has reached this stage, what it possesses for 
God is not only desires; His Majesty gives it the strength to put 
these desires into practice. There is nothing that comes to mind 
that it thinks would be of service to Him that it wouldn't ven- 
ture to do; and the cost to it is nothing, because, as I say, 3 it 
sees clearly that everything other than pleasing God is nothing. 
The trouble is that for persons as useless as myself there are few 
opportunities to do something. May You be pleased, my God, 
that there come a time in which I may be able to repay You 
even one mite of all I owe You. Ordain, Lord, as You wish, 
how this servant of Yours may in some manner serve You. 
Others were women, and they have done heroic things for love 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 21 


of You. I'm not good for anything but talk, and so You don't 
desire, my God, to put me to work; everything adds up to just 
words and desires about how much I must serve, and even in 
this I don't have freedom, because I might perhaps fail in 
everything. Fortify my soul and dispose it first, Good of all goods 
and my Jesus, and then ordain ways in which I might do 
something for You, for there is no longer anyone who can suf- 
fer to receive so much and not repay anything. Cost what it may, 
Lord, do not desire that I come into Your presence with hands 
so empty, since the reward must be given in conformity with 
one's deeds. Here is my life, here is my honor and my will. I 
have given all to You, I am Yours, make use of me according 
to Your will. I see clearly, Lord, the little I'm capable of. But 
having reached You, having climbed to this watchtower, I see 
truths. I can do all things, providing You do not leave me. Were 
You to leave, for however short a time, I would return to where 
I was, which was in hell. 

6. Oh, how painful it is for a soul who finds itself in this stage 
to have to return to dealing with everything, to behold and see 
the face of this so poorly harmonized life, to waste time in tak- 
ing care of bodily needs, sleeping, and eating! Everything wearies 
it; it doesn't know how to flee; it sees itself captured and in chains. 
Then it feels more truly the misery of life and the captivity we 
endure because of our bodies. It knows the reason St. Paul had 
for beseeching God to be liberated from the body; 4 it cries out 
with him; it begs God for freedom, as I have mentioned at other 
times. 3 But in this state the impulse is often so great that it 
seems the soul wants to leave the body and go in search of this 
freedom since there is no one else who will free it. It goes about 
as one sold into a foreign land, and what wearies it most is that 
it doesn't find many who will complain with it and beg for this 
freedom; rather, what is more common is the desire to live. Oh, 
if only we were not bound to anything, if our satisfaction were 
not derived from any earthly thing, how the pain experienced 
from always living without Him and the desire to enjoy the true 
life would temper the fear of death! 

7. If someone like myself, to whom the Lord has given this 
light (in spite of such lukewarm charity and such uncertainty 


St. Teresa of Avila 

about true rest on account of my not having merited it through 
my deeds), often feels so strongly the fact of my exile, I at times 
wonder what the feeling of the saints must have been. What must 
St. Paul and the Magdalene and others like them have 
undergone, in whom this fire of the love of God had grown so 
intense? It must have been a continual martyrdom. 

It seems to me that those who bring me some relief, and in 
whose company I find rest, are persons who I find have 
themselves these desires — I mean desires accompanied by works. 
I say accompanied by works because there are some persons who, 
in their own opinion, are detached; so they publish the fact. And 
the fact of their detachment should be true since their state 
demands it as well as the many years that have passed since some 
of them have set out on the way of perfection. But this soul 
recognizes well, from far off, those who have only a lot of words 
and those who have confirmed their words with works. It 
understands the small amount of good that the former do and 
the great amount that the latter do — and this is something that 
anyone who has experience sees very clearly. 

8. I have already mentioned these effects that the raptures that 
are from God's Spirit cause; the truth is that these effects are 
greater or less. I say less, because in the beginning, even though 
the rapture causes these effects, they are not proven with deeds; 
thus it cannot be determined whether they are present. The rap- 
tures also make perfection grow, and they take away every trace 
of a cobweb — and this requires time. The more that love and 
humility grow, the greater the fragrance these flowers of virtues 
give off, both for oneself and for others. It is true that in one 
of these raptures the Lord can work in the soul in such a way 
that only a little labor is still required in order that it reach perfec- 
tion, for no one who doesn't have this experience will be able 
to believe what the Lord gives the soul in this stage. In my opi- 
nion no effort of ours brings us to this perfection. I don't deny 
that someone with the help of God, making use of the means 
mentioned by authors who have written about prayer, its prin- 
ciples, and properties, will by means of many efforts reach perfec- 
tion and great detachment. But they will not do so in as short 
a time as it takes for the Lord to accomplish it in this stage, 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 21 


without anything done on our part. He definitely draws the soul 
up from the earth and gives it dominion over every earthly thing, 
even though there may be no more merits in it than there were 
in me — and I cannot overstress this absence of merit in me, 
because I had hardly any. 

9. Why His Majesty does this is because He wants to, and 
He does it in the way He wants to; and even though the soul 
may not be ready, His Majesty prepares it to receive the good 
He gives it. Wherefore He doesn't always give raptures because 
souls have merited them through good cultivation of the garden 
(although it is very certain that anyone who does take good care 
of the garden and strives to be detached will not fail to be 
favored), but sometimes it is His will to show His greatness on 
very wretched soil, as I have said. 6 He so prepares the soul for 
every good that it seems it is not longer capable, after a fashion, 
of turning back to its former life of offending God. Its thought 
becomes so accustomed to understanding what the real truth is 
that everything else seems to it to be child's play. It sometimes 
laughs to itself when it sees seriously religious and prayerful per- 
sons making a big issue out of some rules of etiquette which it 
has already trampled under foot. They claim that this is a mat- 
ter of discretion and of the prestige accompanying their office 
so that they might bring about more good. The soul knows very 
well that they would bring about more good in one day than 
they would in ten years if for the love of God they thought a 
lot less of the prestige of their office. 

10. Thus it lives a laborious life and always with the cross, 
but it continues to grow rapidly. When it is observed by its com- 
panions it seems to be at the summit. Within a short while it 
is much improved because God always goes on favoring it more. 
It is His soul; it is He who has taken it into His charge, and 
thus He illumines it. For it seems that by His assistance. He 
is ever guarding it from offending Him and favoring it and 
awakening it to His service. 

When my soul reached this stage where God granted it such 
a great favor, the evil in me disappeared, and the Lord gave 
me strength to break away from it. It didn't bother me to be 
amid the occasions of falling and with people who formerly 


St. Teresa of Avila 

distracted me any more than if there were no occasions at all; 
what used to do me harm was helping me. All things were a 
means for my knowing and loving God more, for seeing what 
1 owed Him, and for regretting what I had been. 

1 1 . I understood well that these effects didn't come from me, 
nor did I gain them through my diligence, for there wasn't even 
time for that. His Majesty solely out of His goodness had given 
me fortitude for them. 

From the time the Lord began to grant me the favor of these 
raptures up until now, this fortitude has always been increas- 
ing; and in His goodness He has held me by His hand so that 
I might not turn back. Nor does it seem to me that I do hardly 
anything on my part — and that is true; I understand clearly that 
it is the Lord who does everything. Hence it seems to me that 
souls upon whom the Lord bestows these favors and who receive 
them with humility and fear — always understanding that it is 
the Lord Himself who grants them and that we ourselves do 
almost nothing — could be placed in the company of any kind 
of people. Even if these people are distracted and corrupt, the 
soul will not be disturbed or enticed in anything; on the con- 
trary, this experience will help it and serve as a means to greater 
progress. These are now strong souls the Lord chooses to benefit 
others, even though their fortitude doesn't come from themselves. 
Little by little, as the soul approaches the Lord in this stage, 
He communicates to it very deep secrets. 

12. Here in this ecstasy are received the true revelations and 
the great favors and visions — and all serves to humiliate and 
strengthen the soul, to lessen its esteem for the things of this life, 
and to make it know more clearly the grandeurs of the reward 
the Lord has prepared for those who serve Him. 

May it please His Majesty that the extraordinarv generosity 
He has shown this miserable sinner serve to encourage and rouse 
those who read this to abandon completely everything for God. 
If His Majesty repays so fully that even in this life the reward 
and gain possessed by those who serve Him is clearly seen, what 
will this reward be in the next life? 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 22 


Chapter 22 

Treats of how safe a path it is for contemplatives not to raise the spirit 
to high things unless the Lord raises it and of how the humanity of Christ 
must be the means to the most sublime contemplation. Tells about a mistaken 
theory she once tried to follow. This chapter is very beneficial. 

THERE IS ONE THING I want to say that in my opinion 
is important. If your Reverence thinks it is good, it can 
be used for giving advice since it could happen that you will have 
need of it. In some books written on prayer it is said that even 
though the soul cannot reach this state of prayer by itself, since 
the work is an entirely supernatural one that the Lord effects 
in the soul, it will be able to help itself by lifting the spirit above 
all creatures and humbly raising it up, and that the soul can do 
this after having passed many years in the purgative life while 
it is advancing in the illuminative. (I don't really know why they 
say illuminative; I understand it to refer to those who are ad- 
vancing.) They give strong advice to rid oneself of all corporeal 
images and to approach contemplation of the Divinity. They 
say that in the case of those who are advancing, these corporeal 
images, even when referring to the humanity of Christ, are an 
obstacle or impediment to the most perfect contemplation. In 
support of this theory they quote what the Lord said to the 
Apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit — I mean at the 
time of His Ascension. 1 They think that since this work is en- 
tirely spiritual, any corporeal thing can hinder or impede it, that 
one should try to think of God in a general way, that He is 
everywhere, and chat we are immersed in Him. 

This is good, it seems to me, sometimes; but to withdraw com- 
pletely from Christ or that this divine Body be counted in a 
balance with our own miseries or with all creation, I cannot en- 
dure. May it please His Majesty that I be able to explain myself, 
2. I am not contradicting this theory; those who hold it are 
learned and spiritual men and they know what they are saying, 
and God leads souls by many paths and ways. I want to speak 
now of the way He led my soul — I'm not considering other 
ways — and of the danger I found myself in for wanting to p f _:t 


St. Teresa of Avila 

into practice what I was reading. I really believe that anyone 
who reaches the experience of union without passing beyond — I 
mean to raptures and visions and other favors God grants to 
souls — will think what is said in these books is the best practice, 
as I did. But if I should have kept to that practice, I believe I 
would never have arrived at where I am now because in my opi- 
nion the practice is a mistaken one. Now it could be that I am 
the mistaken one, but I'll speak of what happend to me. 

3. I had no master and was reading these books in which I 
thought I was gradually coming to understand something. (And 
afterward I understood that if the Lord didn't show me, I was 
able to learn little from books, because there was nothing I 
understood until His Majesty gave me understanding through 
experience, nor did I know what I was doing.) As a result, when 
I began to experience something of supernatural prayer, I mean 
of the prayer of quiet, I strove to turn aside from everything 
corporeal, although I did not dare lift up the soul — since I was 
always so wretched, I saw that doing so would be boldness. But 
it seemed to me that I felt the presence of God, as was so, and 
I strove to recollect myself in His presence. This is a pleasing 
prayer, if God helps in it, and the delight is great. Since I felt 
that benefit and consolation, there was no one who could have 
made me return to the humanity of Christ; as a matter of fact, 
I thought the humanity was an impediment. O Lord of my soul 
and my Good, Jesus Christ crucified! At no time do I recall this 
opinion I had without feeling pain; it seems to me I became a 
dreadful traitor — although in ignorance. 

4. I had been so devoted all my life to Christ (for I held this 
opinion toward the end, that is, just before the Lord granted 
me these favors of raptures and visions, 2 and I didn't remain 
long in so extreme a practice of it); and thus I always returned 
to my custom of rejoicing in this Lord, especially when I received 
Communion. I wanted to keep ever before my eyes a painting 
or image of Him since I was unable to keep Him as engraved 
in my soul as I desired. Is it possible, my Lord, that it entered 
my mind for even an hour that You would be an impediment 
to my greater good? Where have all my blessings come from 
but from You? I don't want to think I was at fault in this, because 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 22 


it deeply saddens me — and certainly it was ignorance. Thus You 
desired, in Your goodness, to remedy the matter by sending me 
someone who would draw me away from this error — and after- 
ward by letting me see You so many times, as I shall explain 
later on- :i so that I would understand more clearly how great 
the error is, and tell many persons what I just said, and put it 
in writing here. 

5. In my opinion this practice is why many souls, when they 
reach the prayer of union, do not advance further or attain a 
very great freedom of spirit. It seems to me there are two reasons 
on which I can base my thinking. Perhaps I'm saying nothing, 
but what I'm about to say I've seen through experience. My soul 
was in a very bad state until the Lord gave it light. All its con- 
solations were coming in small portions, and, once they were 
passed, it didn't then have the companionship of Christ to help 
in trials and temptations. The first reason 4 is lack of humility 
in such persons; so small is this lack and so hidden and con- 
cealed that it goes unnoticed. Who is so proud and miserable — as 
I am— that they will not, after having labored the whole of life 
with as many penances, prayers, and persecutions as can be im- 
agined, feel greatly enriched and well paid when the Lord allows 
them to remain at the foot of the cross with St. John? 5 Not to 
feel greatly enriched by this could happen only to stupid per- 
sons like myself, for in every way I was losing when I should 
have been gaining. 

6. If our nature or health doesn't allow us to think always about 
the Passion, since to do so would be arduous, who will prevent 
us from being with Him in His risen state? We have Him so 
near in the Blessed Sacrament, where He is already glorified 
and where we don't have to gaze upon Him as being so tired 
and worn out, bleeding, wearied by His journeys, persecuted 
by those for whom He did so much good, and not believed in 
by the Apostles. Certainly there is no one who can endure think- 
ing all the time about the many trials He suffered. Behold Him 
here without suffering, full of glory, before ascending into heaven, 
strengthening some, encouraging others, our companion in the 
most Blessed Sacrament; it doesn't seem it was in His power 
to leave us for even a moment. And what a pity it was for me 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to have left You, my Lord, under the pretext of serving You 
more! When I was offending You I didn't know You; but how, 
once knowing You, did I think I could gain more by this path! 
Oh, what a bad road I was following, Lord! Now it seems to 
me I was walking on no path until You brought me back, for 
in seeing You at my side I saw all blessings. There is no trial 
that it wasn't good for me to suffer once I looked at You as You 
were, standing before the judges. Whoever lives in the presence 
of so good a friend and excellent a leader, who went ahead of 
us to be the first to suffer, can endure all things. The Lord helps 
us, strengthens us, and never fails; He is a true friend. And I 
see clearly, and I saw afterward, that God desires that if we are 
going to please Him and receive His great favors, we must do 
so through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom He 
takes His delight. 6 Many, many times have I perceived this 
truth through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have 
definitely seen that we must enter by this gate 7 if we desire His 
sovereign Majesty to show us great secrets. 

7. Thus your Reverence and lordship 8 should desire no other 
path even if you are at the summit of contemplation; on this 
road you walk safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom 
all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In 
beholding His life we find that He is the best example. What 
more do we desire than to have such a good friend at our side, 
who will not abandon us in our labors and tribulations, as friends 
in the world do? Blessed are they who truly love Him and always 
keep Him at their side! Let us consider the glorious St. Paul: 
it doesn't seem that any other name fell from his lips than that 
of Jesus, as coming from one who kept the Lord close to his heart. 
Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered 
the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found 
that they hadn't taken any other path: St. Francis demonstrates 
this through the stigmata; St. Anthony of Padua, with the In- 
fant; St. Bernard found his delight in the humanity; St. Catherine 
of Siena— and many others about whom your Reverence knows 
more than I. 

8. This practice of turning aside from corporeal things must 
be good, certainly, since such spiritual persons advise it. But, 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 22 


in my opinion, the soul should be very advanced because until 
then it is clear that the Creator must be sought through creatures. 
Everything depends on the favor the Lord grants to each soul; 
this is not what I'm concerned with. What I wanted to explain 
was that the most sacred humanity of Christ must not be counted 
in a balance with other corporeal things. And may this point 
be well understood, for I should like to know how to explain 

9. When God desires to suspend all the faculties, as we have 
seen in the kinds of prayer that were mentioned, 1 ' it is clear 
that, even though we may not so desire, this presence is taken 
away. Then let it be so — gladly; blessed be such a loss that enables 
us to enjoy more that which it seems is lost. For then the soul 
is occupied completely in loving the One whom the intellect 
labored to know, and loves what it didn't understand, and re- 
joices in so great a joy that it couldn't have experienced it save 
by losing itself in order, as I say, to gain itself. But that we should 
skillfully and carefully accustom ourselves to avoid striving with 
all our strength to keep this most sacred humanity always pre- 
sent (and please the Lord it would be present always), this, I 
say, is what I don't think is good. The soul is left floating in the 
air, as they say; it seems it has no support no matter how much 
it may think it is full of God. It is an important thing that while 
we are living and are human we have human support. This disad- 
vantage of not having human support leads to the other reason 
I referred to. With regard to the first reason, I already began 
to say 10 that there is a small lack of humility in wanting to raise 
the soul up before the Lord raises it, in not being content to 
meditate on something so valuable, and in wanting to be Mary 
before having worked with Martha. 11 When the Lord desires to 
raise up the soul, even if He does so from the first day, there 
is no reason for fear; but let us restrain ourselves as I believe 
I said before. This little speck of lack of humility, even though 
it seems to be nothing, does much harm to progress in 

10. Returning to the second point, we are not angels but we 
have a body. To desire to be angels while we are on earth — and 
as much on earth as I was — is foolishness. Ordinarily, thought 


St. Teresa of Avila 

needs to have some support. If at times the soul goes out of itself 
or goes about so full of God that it has no need of any createc 
thing to become recollected, this isn't so usual. When one is in 
the midst of business matters, and in times of persecutions and 
trials, when one can't maintain so much quietude, and in times 
of dryness, Christ is a very good friend because we behold Him 
as man and see Him with weaknesses and trials — and He is com- 
pany for us. Once we have the habit, it is very easy to find Him 
present at our side, although there will come times when neither 
the one experience nor the other will be possible. In such an 
instance a good attitude is the one I've already mentioned: 12 
not to allow ourselves to be seekers of spiritual consolations. 
Thus, embracing the cross, come what may, is an important 
thing. This Lord was deprived of every consolation; they left 
Him alone in His trials. Let us not abandon Him, for He will 
give us better support than our own efforts that we might as- 
cend higher, and He will absent Himself when He sees such 
absence is fitting and when He desires to draw the soul out of 
itself, as I said. 13 

11. God is very pleased to see a soul that humbly takes His 
son as mediator and that loves this Son so much that even when 
His Majesty desires to raise it to very lofty contemplation, as 
I have said, 14 it is aware of its unworthiness, saying with St. 
Peter: Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. 15 

Such has been my experience; it's the way God has led my 
soul. Others will journey, as I've said, 16 by another short cut. 
What I have come to understand is that this whole groundwork 
of prayer is based on humility and that the more a soul lowers 
itself in prayer the more God raises it up. I don't recall His ever 
having granted me one of the very notable favors of which I shall 
speak later if not at a time when I was brought to nothing at 
the sight of my wretchedness. And, so as to help me know myself, 
His Majesty even strove to give me an understanding of things 
that I wouldn't have known how to imagine. I hold that when 
the soul does something on its own to help itself in this prayer 
of union, even though this may at first seem beneficial, it will 
very soon fall again since it doesn't have a good foundation. I 
fear that it will never attain true poverty of spirit, which means 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 22 


being at rest in labors and dryness and not seeking consolation 
or comfort in prayer — for earthly consolation has already been 
abandoned — but seeking consolation in trials for love of Him 
who always lived in the midst of them. Although if some con- 
solation is felt, it shouldn't cause the disturbance and pain it does 
to some persons who think that if they aren't always working 
with the intellect and striving for devotion all is lost — as though 
so great a blessing could be merited by their labor. I don't say 
that they shouldn't strive carefully to remain in God's presence, 
but that if they can't even get a good thought, as I've mentioned 
elsewhere, 17 they shouldn't kill themselves. We are useless ser- 
vants, what do we think we can do? 

12. But the Lord desires us to recognize our uselessness and 
become like the little donkeys that turn the waterwheel I've men- 
tioned: 18 although their eyes are blinded and they don't know 
what they are doing, they obtain more water than the gardener 
does with all his activity. People must walk along this path in 
freedom, placing themselves in the hands of God. If His Majes- 
ty should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an in- 
timate and shares His secrets, we ought to accept gladly; if not, 
we ought to serve in the humbler tasks and not sit down in the 
best place, 19 as I've once said. God is more careful than we are, 
and He knows what is fitting for each one. What do persons 
gain by governing themselves when they have given their wills 
entirely to God? In my opinion, much less is allowed here than 
in the first degree of prayer, and the harm that can come is much 
greater. These blessings are supernatural. If individuals have 
bad voices, the effort to sing does them no good no matter how 
hard they try; if God desires to give them good voices, there 
is no need beforehand that there be any shouting. Thus, with 
souls surrendered to His will, yet trusting in His greatness, let 
us always beseech God to grant us favors. Since the soul receives 
permission to remain at the feet of Christ, it should endeavor 
not to leave that place. Let it remain there as it desires; let it 
imitate the Magdalene, for if it is strong, God will lead it into 
the desert. 20 

13. Thus, until your Reverence finds someone with more ex- 
perience than I, and who knows better, you should keep to this 

St. Teresa of Avila 

opinion. If there are persons who are beginning to find delight 
in God, do not believe them if they think that by helping 
themselves they are making progress and finding more consola- 
tion. Oh, when God so wills, how He is revealed openly without 
these little helps from us! For however much we may do, He 
carries off the spirit as a giant would a piece of straw — and no 
resistance suffices. What a strange belief it is, that the toad should 
expect to fly of itself whenever it wants. And it seems to me to 
be even more difficult and troublesome for our spirit to raise 
itself up if God doesn't raise it, for it is weighed down with the 
earth and a thousand obstacles, and wanting to fly profits it lit- 
tle. Although flying is more natural to it than to the toad, it is 
so bogged down in the mud that through its own faults it lost 
this ability. 

14. Well I want to conclude by saying this: As often as we 
think of Christ we should recall the love with which He bestowed 
on us so many favors and what great love God showed us in 
giving us a pledge like this of His love, for love begets love. Even 
if we are at the very beginning and are very wretched, let us 
strive to keep this divine love always before our eyes and to waken 
ourselves to love. If at some time the Lord should favor us by 
impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us, 
and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much ef- 
fort. May His Majesty give this love — since He knows how fit- 
ting it is for us — on account of the love He bore us and on ac- 
count of His glorious Son, who demonstrated His love for us 
at so great a cost to Himself, amen. 

15. There is one thing I should like to ask your Reverence. 
When the Lord begins to grant such sublime favors to a soul, 
as is that of placing it in perfect contemplation, rightly speak- 
ing it should at once become completely perfect. Certainly this 
ought to be so because whoever receives so great a favor should 
not have to desire earthly consolations any more. Well why, then, 
as the soul grows accustomed to receiving favors and raptures, 
does it seem that the more favors it receives the more detached 
it becomes? For in one moment the Lord can leave it sanctified 
just as, with the passing of time, He afterward leaves it with 
perfection in the virtues? 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 22 


This is what I want to know since I don't know what the answer 
is. What I do know well is the difference between the fortitude 
God leaves when in the beginning the favor lasts no longer than 
the blinking of an eye, and is almost not felt save in its effects, 
and that which He leaves when it lasts longer. Often it seems 
to me the reason is that the soul doesn't dispose itself complete- 
ly until the Lord, fostering it little by little, gives it the deter- 
mination and strength of an adult so that it might trample 
everything underfoot. What He did in a short time for the 
Magdalene His Majesty does for other persons in conformity 
with what they themselves do in order to allow Him to work. 
Let us not cease to believe that even in this life God gives the 
hundredfold. 21 

16. I was also thinking about this comparison. Since what is 
given to those who are further advanced is totally the same as 
that given to them in the beginning, we can compare it to a food 
that many persons eat. Those who eat just a little are left only 
with a good taste in their mouth for a short while; those who 
eat more, receive nourishment; those who eat a great deal receive 
life and strength. So frequently can these latter eat and so filled 
are they from this food of life that they no longer eat anything 
that satisfies them other than this food. They see how beneficial 
it is to them, and their taste has so adapted to this sweetness 
that it would prefer not living to having to eat other things that 
serve for no more than to take away the pleasing taste the good 
food leaves behind. 

Neither is conversation with a saintly companion as beneficial 
when it lasts only one day as when it lasts many; and if it is pro- 
longed over many, it will make us similar to the other — if God 
favors us. In the end, everything depends on what His Majesty 
desires and to whom He desires to give this food. But it is very 
important for whoever is already beginning to receive this favor 
to have the determination to become completely detached and 
to esteem the favor as it should be esteemed. 

17. It also seems to me that His Majesty is testing to see who 
it is who loves Him; He tests now this one, now another, by 
revealing who He is with a superb delight and by quickening 
faith — if it is dead — in what He will give us, saying: "Look, this 


St. Teresa of Avila 

is but a drop from the vast sea of blessings." He does this so 
as to leave nothing undone for those who love Him; in the 
measure He sees that they receive Him, so He gives and is given. 
He loves whoever loves Him; how good a beloved! how good 
a friend! O Lord of my soul, who has the words to explain what 
You give to those who trust in You and to explain what those 
lose who reach this state and yet remain with themselves! Do 
not desire a loss like this, Lord, since You do so much in com- 
ing to a dwelling place as shabby as mine. May You be blessed 
forever and ever! 

18. If your Reverence discusses with spiritual persons these 
things I have written on prayer, I again beg you that these per- 
sons be truly spiritual. For if they know only one road or have 
stalled in the middle, they will not be able to understand. There 
are some whom God right from the start leads by a very sublime 
path, and it seems to them that thus others will be able to profit 
by this path, quiet the intellect, and not make use of corporeal 
means, but in so doing those others will be left as dry as sticks. 
Some who have experienced a little quietude immediately think 
that since they have this quiet they can raise themselves up; and 
instead of advancing they slip backward, as I have said. 11 So 
experience and discretion are necessary in all matters. May the 
Lord in His goodness give them to us. 

Chapter 23 

Returns to the account of her life, of how she began to seek greater perfec- 
tion, and by what means. For persons trying to guide souls that practice 
prayer it is helpful to know how these souls must proceed in the begin- 
ning. How she profited from knowing about this. 

I NOW WANT TO RETURN to where I left off about my 
life, 1 for I think I delayed more than I should have so that 
what follows would be better understood. This is another, new 
book from here on — I mean another, new life. The life dealt 
with up to this point was mine; the one I lived from the point 
where I began to explain these things about prayer is the one 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 23 


God lived in me — according to the way it appears to me — because 
I think it would have been impossible in so short a time to get 
rid of so many bad habits and deeds. May the Lord be praised 
who freed me from myself. 

2. Now, then, when I began to avoid occasions and devote 
myself to prayer, the Lord, as one who desired, so it seemed, 
that I be willing to receive them, started to grant me favors. His 
Majesty began to give me the prayer of quiet very habitually — 
and often, of union — which lasted a long while. Since at that 
time other women had fallen into serious illusions and decep- 
tions caused by the devil, 2 I began to be afraid. I experienced 
wonderful delight and sweetness, and often without being able 
to avoid it, and in addition I was aware of the greatest assurance 
that this delight was from God, especially when I was in the 
prayer — and I observed that I came out of it much improved 
and strengthened. But after a little distraction I began to fear 
and wonder whether the devil, making me think the experience 
was good, wanted me to suspend the intellect so that he could 
draw me away from mental prayer and so that I might not think 
upon the Passion or benefit from the use of the intellect, which 
seemed to me a great loss because I didn't understand this prayer. 

3. Moreover, since His Majesty desired now to enlighten me 
so that I might no longer offend Him and might know my great 
debt to Him, this fear increased in such a way that it made me 
diligently seek out spiritual persons to consult. I had already 
heard about some because they had come to this town and were 
members of the Society of Jesus 3 of which — without knowing 
any of the members — I was very fond, only from hearing about 
the mode of life and prayer they followed. But I didn't feel worthy 
to speak to them or strong enough to obey them, and this made 
me more fearful; it would have been a difficult thing for me to 
converse with them and yet be what I was. 

4. I went about like this for some time until, after a great strug- 
gle within me and many tears, I resolved both to talk to a spiritual 
person (to ask him what prayer it was I was experiencing and 
to enlighten me if I were going astray) and to do all I could so 
as not to offend God. For, as I just said, 4 the lack of fortitude 
I saw in myself made me so timid. What a terrible mistake, God 


St. Teresa of Avila 

help me, that in wanting to be good I withdrew from good! The 
devil must meddle a great deal in this matter when virtue is begin- 
ning; I couldn't make the fear go away. He knows that the com- 
plete remedy for a soul lies in consulting the friends of God; thus 
I didn't have the determination to do this. I was waiting to amend 
first, as when I abandoned prayer, 5 and perhaps I would never 
have done so, because I had fallen into little bad habits to such 
an extent that I was unable to understand they were bad. I needed 
the help of others and that they give me a hand to lift me up. 
Blessed be the Lord, for, finally, His was the first. 

5. Since I saw that my fear was increasing— because the prayer 
was increasing— it seemed to me there was in the prayer either 
some great good or some terrible evil. I understood well that 
I was already experiencing something supernatural because 
sometimes I was unable to resist; to have it whenever I wanted 
was out of the question. I thought to myself there would be no 
remedy if I didn't strive to have a clean conscience and withdraw 
from every occasion, even if it concerned venial sins. For if the 
prayer were from God's Spirit, there would obviously be 
something to gain from striving for purity of conscience; if it 
were from the devil, my striving to please the Lord and not of- 
fend Him could do me little harm — on the contrary, the devil 
would be the loser. Resolved to strive for this purity of cons- 
cience and beseeching the Lord to help me, I saw, after trying 
it for some days, that my soul didn't have the strength to reach 
such perfection alone on account of some attachments that, 
though in themselves were not bad, were enough to spoil 

6. They told me about a learned priest 6 in this city whose 
goodness and edifying life the Lord had begun to make known 
to the people. I tried to get to speak to him through the help 
of a saintly gentleman 7 who lives in this city. This gentleman 
is married, but he lives so exemplary and virtuous a life and 
is so prayerful and charitable that his goodness and perfection 
shine throughout the whole town. There is every reason for his 
renown because great good has come to many souls by means 
of him. He has so many talents that even though his state in 
life isn't a help to him, he cannot refrain from using them: he 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 23 


is most intelligent and very gentle with everyone; his conversa- 
tion, not at all boring, so mild and charming as well as upright 
and holy, is most pleasing to those with whom he deals; he directs 
everything toward the great good of the souls with whom he is 
conversing; and it doesn't seem that he has any other concern 
than to do for everyone what he sees is possible and to be pleas- 
ing to all. 

7. Well, this blessed and holy man, with his diligence, it seems 
to me, was the principal means by which my soul was saved. 
His humility amazes me. I believe he has practiced prayer for 
a little less than forty years — I don't know if it's two or three 
years less. He lives a complete life of perfection insofar as it seems 
his state allows. His wife is such a great servant of God and so 
charitable that he is not held back by her. In sum, God chose 
her to be the wife of someone who He knew would be a great 
servant of His. Some of his relatives were married to some of 
mine; he also had a good deal of association with another great 
servant of God 8 who was married to a cousin of mine. 

8. In this way I arranged that the priest I said was such a ser- 
vant of God would come to speak to me.. This gentleman was 
a great friend of that priest whom I thought I could take as my 
confessor and master. When he brought him to speak to me, 
I was most embarrassed to find myself in the presence of so holy 
a man, and I gave him an account of my soul and my prayer; 
but I didn't want him to hear my confession. I told him I was 
very busy — and that was true. He began with a holy determina- 
tion to guide me as though I were a strong person — for by rights 
I should have been so because of the prayer he observed I was 
experiencing — in order that I might in no way offend God. When 
I saw him at once so determined about little things that, as I 
say," I didn't have the fortitude to give up immediately and so 
perfectly, I was afflicted. Since I saw he was taking my soul's 
attachments as something I would have to die to all at once, I 
realized there was need for much more caution. 

9. In sum, I understood that the means he gave me were not 
the ones by which I could remedy my situation, because they 
were suited to a more perfect soul. As for myself, even though 
I was advanced in receiving favors from God, I was very much 


St. Teresa of Avila 

at the beginning with regard to virtues and mortification. Cer- 
tainly, if I were to have had no one else but him to speak to, 
I believe my soul would never have improved. For the affliction 
I felt in seeing that I did not do — nor did it seem I could do — 
that which he told me would have been enough to make me lose 
hope and give up everything. 

I sometimes marvel that God was not pleased that this priest, 
being a person who has a particular grace for beginning to lead 
souls to God, understand my soul and take charge of it. I see 
that what happened was all for my greater good, that I might 
get to know and deal with people as holy as are those of the Socie- 
ty of Jesus. 

10. It was then that I arranged that the holy gentleman come 
sometime to see me. Here I saw his great humility, that he wished 
to talk to someone as wretched as myself. He began to visit me, 
encourage me, and tell me that I shouldn't think I could give 
up everything in one day, that little by little God would do the 
work, that he himself had been for some years unable to make 
a break with some very trivial things. O humility, what great 
blessings you bestow where you are present and on those who 
approach the one who possesses you! This saint (for in my opi- 
nion I can rightly call him by this name), in his humility and 
for my benefit, told me about his weakness, which to him seemed 
to be such. Considering what was in conformity with his state 
in life, there was no fault or imperfection — whereas my having 
such weaknesses would have been the greatest fault with respect 
to my state of life. 

I do not mention this without a reason, for it seems I am go- 
ing on at length about trifles; but these things are so important 
in beginning to help a soul and show it how to fly (for it still 
hasn't any wings, as they say) that no one will believe what I 
say save the one who has passed through it. Because I hope in 
God that your Reverence will be able to help many souls, I men- 
tion it here; this gentleman was my complete salvation in knowing 
how to cure me and in having the humility and the charity to 
stay with me — and patience while seeing that I wasn't making 
amends in everything. He proceeded with discretion little by little 
showing me ways to conquer the devil. I began to have such 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 23 


a great love for him that there was no greater recreation for me 
than on the days I saw him, although they were few. When he 
was late, I became very worried because it then seemed to me 
that since I was so wretched he wasn't going to see me. 

1 1 . Since he was getting to know my very great imperfections, 
and they would even be sins — although after I spoke with him 
I made greater amends — and since I mentioned to him the favors 
granted me by God so that he could give me light, he told me 
that my imperfections were incompatible with the favors and 
that these gifts were bestowed on persons who were already very 
advanced and mortified, that he couldn't help but fear a great 
deal because in some things it seemed to him there was a bad 
spirit, although he didn't come to a definite conclusion. But he 
thought well of all that he understood about my prayer, and he 
said so. The difficulty was that I didn't know how to say either 
little or much about my prayer; for only recently did God give 
me this favor of understanding what it is and knowing how to 
speak about it. 

12. Since this gentleman told me about his fear, and with the 
fear I already had, I felt greatly afflicted and shed many tears. 
For, certainly, I desired to please God, and I could not persuade 
myself that the devil was the cause. But I feared that on account 
of my great sins God blinded me so that I couldn't know the 
cause. Looking through books in order to see if I could learn 
how to explain the prayer I was experiencing, I found in one 
they called Ascent of the Mount, 10 where it touches upon the 
union of the soul with God, all the signs I experienced in that 
not thinking of anything. This was what I was most often say- 
ing: that when I experienced that prayer I wasn't able to think 
of anything. I marked the pertinent passages and gave him the 
book so that he and the other priest I mentioned, the saintly 
one and servant of God, might look it over and tell me what 
I should do, and that if they thought I should, I would give up 
prayer completely — for why should I place myself in these 
dangers. If at the end of almost twenty years in which I prac- 
ticed prayer, I showed no gain but was deceived by the devil, 
it would be better not to practice it — although this too would 
have been arduous for me because I had already experienced 

St. Teresa of Avila 

what my soul was without prayer. As a result, I saw danger 
everywhere. I was like a person in the middle of a river trying 
to get out; wherever she goes she fears greater peril there; and 
she is almost drowning. 

It is a very severe trial, this one; and I have suffered many 
of these, as I shall say afterward. 11 Although the matter may 
seem unimportant, perhaps it will be helpful for an understand- 
ing of how the spirit must be tried. 

13. And certainly it is a great one, the trial that is suffered; 
and caution is necessary, especially with women, because our 
weakness is great, and a lot of harm could be done by telling 
us outright that the cause is the devil. But the matter should 
be considered carefully, and they should turn aside from any 
dangers there might be and should be counseled on the impor- 
tance of keeping things secret; this secrecy is fitting. 

In this respect I am speaking as one who is suffering a bitter 
trial because some persons with whom I have discussed my prayer 
are not keeping it secret, but in consulting this one and that other, 
they have truly done me great harm. They have spread things 
that should have remained very secret — these matters are not 
for everybody — and it seemed that I was the one who published 
them abroad. I believe the Lord permitted it without any fault 
on their part so that I might suffer. I'm not saying they spoke 
about what I discussed with them in confession. But since they 
were persons to whom because of my fears I gave an account 
of myself that they might enlighten me, it seemed to me they 
should have kept quiet. Nonetheless, I never dared to conceal 
anything from these persons. 

Well, I'm saying that one should counsel these souls wich great 
discretion, encouraging them and biding one's time up til the Lord 
helps them as He did me. If I had not been so treated, the greatest 
harm would have been done to me because I was frightened and 
scared. With the serious heart trouble I had, I'm amazed that 
much damage wasn't clone to me. 

It. Since I gave them both the book as well as zn account 
of my life and sms :i as best I could (not through coniession, 
since one U" diem was a las man, but I explained clearly how 
wretch'. 1 a i ;. two st ^ umj • n Go:' considered vvuh great 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 23 


charity and love what was fitting for me. 

I awaited the answer with terrible fear; after I had recommend- 
ed myself to the prayers of many persons and prayed a great 
deal myself during those days, one of them with much anguish 
came and told me that in the considered opinion of both of them 
the cause was the devil. He told me I should take the matter 
up with a priest from the Society of Jesus, that if I asked the 
priest, telling of my need, he would come, and that I should 
give an account of my whole life and state by a general confes- 
sion and be very frank in all, that by the power of the sacra- 
ment of confession God would enlighten him, that these Fathers 
were very experienced in spiritual matters, and that I shouldn't 
neglect anything he might tell me, because I was in serious danger 
if I didn't have someone to guide me. 

15. This frightened and pained me so much that I didn't know 
what to do; I was all tears. And while in an oratory very much 
afflicted, not knowing what would become of me, I read in a 
book — which it seems the Lord placed in my hands — what St. 
Paul said, that God was very faithful, that He would never let 
those who love Him be deceived by the devil. 15 This consoled 
me very deeply. 

I began to prepare my general confession and put down in 
writing all the good and bad things — as clear an account of my 
life as I knew how to give, without leaving anything out. 14 

I recall that after I had written it, I saw so many evils and 
so little of anything good that I was terribly distressed and in 
the greatest anguish. Also I was pained that persons in the house 
would see me speak with people as holy as are those of the Society 
of Jesus. For I was in fear of my wretchedness; it seemed to me 
I was going to have greater obligation to avoid evil and my 
pastimes, and that things would grow worse If I didn't do this. 
So I arranged with the sacristan and portress not to tell anyone. 
This proved of little avail, for it happened that when they calJed 
me someone was standing near the door who (hen it through- 
out the whole convent telling about who c^.r.e if ~rc But 
what obstacles and what fears the devil places i~ ■ « pat., c f the 
one who wants to ^each God ! 

16. After I spoke with thai „• * x ?j. • o r ' ^ " > -v 


St. Teresa of Avila 

very much so and most wise — all about my soul, as to someone 
who well knew this langauge, he explained to me what I was 
experiencing and greatly encouraged me. He said it was very 
recognizably from God's Spirit, but that it was necessary to return 
again to prayer, that the prayer did not have a good founda- 
tion, and that I had not begun to understand mortification (and 
that was true, for it doesn't seem to me I even understood the 
word), that I should by no means give up prayer but strive very 
hard since God had granted me such special favors. He wondered 
if the Lord didn't desire to do good for many persons through 
me, and said other things (for it seems he prophesied what the 
Lord afterward did with me) and pointed out that I would be 
very much at fault if I didn't respond to the favors God was grant- 
ing me. In all that he said it seemed to me, according to what 
was impressed upon my soul, that the Holy Spirit was speaking 
through him in order to heal me. 

17. He made me very ashamed; he guided me by means that 
seemed to change me completely. What a great thing it is to 
understand a soul! He told me that I should devote prayer each 
day to a phase of the Passion, that I should benefit from this 
prayer and dwell only on the humanity, and that I should resist 
those experiences of recollection and consolation as much as I 
could and in such a way that I would make no room for them 
until he told me otherwise. 

18. He left me consoled and encouraged, and the Lord helped 
me and him to understand my situation and how I should be 
guided. I remained determined not to lapse from his orders in 
anything, and I continued to be so determined to this day. 
Praised be the Lord who has given me the grace to obey my 
confessors, even though imperfectly; they have almost always 
been these blessed men from the Society of Jesus — although, as 
I say, I have followed them imperfectly. 

My soul began to improve noticeably, as I shall now describe. 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 24 


Chapter 24 

Continues on the same topic. Tells how her soul made progress after she 
began to obey, how little it helped her to resist God's favors, and how His 
Majesty began giving her more perfect ones. 

MY SOUL WAS LEFT SO DOCILE from this confes- 
sion that it seemed to me there was nothing for which 
I wouldn't prepare myself. As a consequence I began to make 
many changes, although the confessor didn't press me; rather 
it seemed that he thought all the changes of little importance. 
And this urged me more because he guided my soul by stress- 
ing the love of God and allowed freedom and used no pressure 
if I didn't set about doing things out of love. 

So for almost two months I was trying to resist with all my 
might the gifts and favors of God. In exterior matters the change 
was apparent because the Lord already began to grant me the 
courage to practice some renunciation that in the judgment of 
persons who knew me and even of some Sisters in my own 
house 1 appeared too extreme. When compared with my 
previous way of life, this renunciation was extreme, and those 
who thought so were right. But as for my obligation by reason 
of the habit I wore and my profession, it fell short. 

2. In resisting these consolations and favors of God, I gained 
by learning something from His Majesty. For in the past I had 
thought that to receive favors in prayer much seclusion was 
necessary, and I hardly dared to stir. Afterward I saw how little 
such effort mattered. The more I strove to distract myself, the 
more the Lord enveloped me in that sweetness and glory, which 
seemed to surround me so completely that there was no place 
to escape — and that was true. I was so careful that it pained me. 
The Lord was more careful in granting me favors and in reveal- 
ing Himself to me; much more than usual in those two months 
that I might better understand it was no longer in my power 
to resist them. 

I started again to love the most sacred humanity. Prayer began 
to take shape as an edifice that now had a foundation; I grew 
fond of more penance, for I had been negligent on account of 


St. Teresa of Avila 

the severity of my illnesses. That holy man who heard my con- 
fession told me that some things could do me no harm, that 
perhaps God gave me so much sickness because, since I didn't 
do penance, His Majesty desired to give me some. He ordered 
me to perform some mortifications which were not very pleas- 
ing to me. I did everything because it seemed to me the Lord 
commanded it, and God gave him the ability to command me 
in such a way that I obeyed him. My soul began so to feel any 
offense I committed against God, however small, that if I was 
holding on to some superfluous thing, I could not recollect myself 
until I gave the thing up. I prayed a great deal that the Lord 
might keep me in His hands, that since He permitted me to con- 
sult with His servants He would not allow me to turn back, for 
it seemed to me that to turn back would have been a great 
crime and that they would have lost their reputations on my 

3. At that time Father Francis 2 came to this place. He had 
been the Duke of Gandia, and some years before had given up 
all and entered the Society of Jesus. My confessor, 5 and the 
gentleman I also mentioned who came to me, arranged that I 
might speak with him and give him an account of my prayer 
because I knew that he was advancing in the favors and gifts 
of God. Since he was one who had abandoned many things for 
Him, God repaid him even in this life. 

Well, after he had heard me, he told me that my experience 
was from the Spirit of God and that it seemed to him it would 
no longer be good to resist, but that up to this time it had been 
all right, and that I should always begin prayer with an event 
from the Passion, but that if afterward the Lord should carry 
away the spirit I ought not resist Him but let His Majesty bear 
it away — and not strive to do so myself. As one who was well 
advanced he gave the medicine and the counsel, for experience 
in this matter is very important. He said it would be a mistake 
to resist any longer. 

I was left greatly consoled. The gentleman too was very glad 
that Father Francis said it was from God, and this gentleman 
helped me and gave me advice in matters where he could, which 
were many. 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 24 


4. At that time they transferred my confessor 4 to another 
place. I felt his transfer very keenly, for I thought I would return 
to my wretchedness; it didn't seem to me it would be possible 
to find another like him. My soul was left as though in a desert, 
very disconsolate and fearful. I didn't know what to do with 
myself. A relative of mine arranged to bring me to her house, 
and I tried to go immediately so as to get another confessor from 
among those of the Society. The Lord was pleased that I become 
friendly with a widow of high nobility 5 who practised prayer 
and was a very close friend of members of the Society. She made 
me confess to her own confessor, and I stayed at her house for 
many days. Her house was nearby, and I was glad to converse 
a great deal with them; by merely listening to the holiness of 
their conversation, my soul felt great benefit. 

5. This Father began 6 to lead me to greater perfection. He 
told me that to please God completely I must leave nothing un- 
done; he did so also with great skill and gentleness because my 
soul still was not at all strong but very fragile, especially with 
regard to giving up some friendships I had. Although I was not 
offending God by them, I was very attached, and it seemed to 
me it would be ingratitude to abandon them. So I questioned 
why I should have to be ungrateful since I was not offending 
God. He told me to commend the matter to God for some days 
and to recite the hymn Veni Creator so that God might give me 
light about the better course of action. One day, having spent 
a long time in prayer and begging the Lord to help me please 
Him in all things, I began the hymn; while saying it, a rapture 
came upon me so suddenly that it almost carried me out of 
myself. 7 It was something I could not doubt, because it was 
very obvious. It was the first time the Lord granted me this favor 
of rapture. I heard these words: "No longer do I want you to 
converse with men but with angels." This experience terrified 
me because the movement of the soul was powerful and these 
words were spoken to me deep within the spirit; so it frightened 
me — although on the other hand I felt great consolation when 
the fear that, I think, was caused by the novelty of the experience 
left me. 

6. These words have been fulfilled, for I have never again been 


St. Teresa of Avila 

able to tie myself to any friendship or to find consolation in or 
bear particular love for any other persons than those I under- 
stand love Him and strive to serve Him; nor is it in my power 
to do so, nor does it matter whether they are friends or relatives. 
If I'm not aware that the persons seek to love and serve God 
or to speak about prayer, it is a painful cross for me to deal with 
them. To the best of my knowledge this is most certainly true. 

7. From that day on I was very courageous in abandoning 
all for God, as one who had wanted from that moment — for it 
doesn't seem to me it was otherwise — to change completely. Thus 
it wasn't necessary that I be given any more commands. Since 
my confessor saw me so attached in this matter, he hadn't dared 
to say definitely that I should give up such attachments. He had 
to wait for the Lord to do the work, as He did. Nor did I think 
that I could succeed in this matter; I had already tried it, and 
the distress it caused me was so great since the attachments didn't 
seem to me to be improper, I abandoned the effort. Now in this 
rapture the Lord gave me the freedom and strength to perform 
the task. So I told the confessor and gave up all as he had ordered 
me. It greatly benefited my confessor to see this determination 
in me. 

8. May God be blessed forever because in an instant He gave 
me the freedom that I with all the efforts of many years could 
not attain by myself, often trying so to force myself that my health 
had to pay dearly. Since it was accomplished by Him who is 
the powerful and true Lord of all, I felt no pain. 

Chapter 25 

Discusses the nature of these locutions the Lord grants to the soul without^ 
the use of the sense of hearing, some of the delusions that can result from\ 
these locutions, and how one can discern when they come from God. This\ 
chapter is most helpful and gives much doctine for those who find themselves\ 
in this degree of prayer since the matter is explained very well. 

IT SEEMS TO ME it would be good to explain how this locu- 
tion the Lord grants takes place and what the soul feels, so 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 25 


that your Reverence may understand it. For from the time I 
mentioned in which the Lord granted me this favor until now, 
the favor has been very common, as will be seen in what re- 
mains to be said. 

The words are very explicit 1 but are not heard with the bodi- 
ly ears, although they are understood much more clearly than 
they would be if heard — and to try, no matter how hard, to resist 
understanding them is of no avail. When, here on earth, we don't 
want to listen to something, we can stop our ears or so turn our 
attention to something else that even though we hear we do not 
understand. In the case of these words God addresses to the soul 
there is no way of avoiding them; rather, even though 1 may 
not want to, they make me listen and make the intellect so keenly 
capable of understanding what God desires us to understand that 
it is not enough either to desire or not to desire to understand. 
He who can do all things wants us to understand that He must 
do what He wants, and He shows Himself to be our true Lord. 
I have a lot of experience of this because with the great fear I 
bore I resisted for almost two years — and sometimes now I try 
to resist, but to do so is of little avail. 

2. I should like to explain the delusions that can take place 
here, although it seems to me that for anyone who has much 
experience there will be few or none at all; but there must be 
much experience. And I also want to explain the difference that 
lies between what comes from the good spirit and what comes 
from the bad spirit and how the locution can also be an apprehen- 
sion of the intellect itself— which can happen — or the spirit itself 
speaking to itself. (In regard to this latter I don't know if it's possi- 
ble, but even to this day it has seemed to me to be so.) As for 
when it is from God I have had much experience in many things 
that were said to me and were fulfilled after two or three years, 
and of which up to the present nothing has turned out to be a 
lie, and in other things where it is seen clearly to be from the 
spirit of God, as I shall say afterward. 

3. It seems to me that one could be recommending something 
to God with great feeling and intensity and think one understands 
something about whether it will be done or not, and this is very 
possible — although anyone who has understood words coming 


St. Teresa of Avila 

from God will see clearly the nature of these words coming from 
the intellect because the difference between the two is great. And 
if they are something the intellect fabricates, no matter how subtly 
it works, a person will know that it is the intellect that is com- 
posing something and speaking. The difference is that in the one 
case the words are composed and in the other they are listened 
to. The intellect will see that it is not then listening because it 
is working. And the words it fabricates are as though muffled, 
fancied, and without the clarity of those that come from God. 
It is in our power to divert our attention from these words of 
the intellect, as we do when while speaking we decide to keep 
quiet; in the case of those words that are from God there is no 
way of diverting one's attention. 

Another sign more noticeable than all the others is that these 
words composed by the intellect do not produce any effect. Those 
the Lord speaks are both words and works. And even though 
the words may not be devotional ones but words of reproof, they 
dispose the soul and prepare it from the very beginning, and 
they touch it, give it light, favor it and bring it quiet. And if 
the soul suffers dryness, agitation and worry, these are taken 
away as though by a stroke of the hand since it seems the Lord 
wants it to understand that He is powerful and that His words 
are works. 2 

4. It seems to me the difference between the two kinds of locu- 
tion is the same as that between speaking and listening, no more 
nor less. For when I speak, as I said,' I compose with the in- 
tellect what I am going to say; but if others speak to me, I do 
no more than listen without any effort. The one kind takes place 
in such a way that we cannot clearly determine whether the words 
were really spoken, as when one is half asleep; in those from 
God the voice is so clear that you don't lose a syllable of what 
is said. And these latter happen at times when the intellect and 
the soul are so agitated and distracted that the soul wouldn't suc- 
ceed in putting together a good sentence — yet it finds that long 
sentences all prepared are spoken to it, which even though it 
were deeply recollected it wouldn't be able to compose. And in 
hearing the first word, as I mentioned, the soul is changed com- 
pletely. How will things be understood — especially when it is 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 25 


enraptured, for the faculties are suspended — that didn't even 
come to its mind before? How will these things come when it 
hardly functions at all and the imagination remains as though 

5. It should be understood that, in my opinion, visions are 
never seen nor words understood while the soul is united in the 
rapture itself. For during this time — as I already explained, I 
believe, when discussing the second water — 4 all the faculties 
are completely lost and, in my opinion, one can neither see nor 
understand nor hear. The soul is completely under the power 
of another, and during this time, which is very short, it doesn't 
seem to me the Lord leaves it any freedom at all. Once this short 
space of time has passed, while the soul still remains in a kind 
of rapture, these locutions take place. 3 The faculties are in such 
a state that even though they are not lost, they do hardly 
anything. They are as though absorbed and incapable of put- 
ting sentences together. There are so many ways of understand- 
ing the difference between the two kinds of locutions that though 
a soul may be misled once, it will not be misled often. 

6. And I say that if the soul is experienced and on the lookout, 
it will see the difference very clearly. Besides the other things 
in which the difference I mentioned is seen, the locution com- 
ing from the intellect produces no effect, nor does the soul receive 
any (for with those that come from God it receives the effect 
whether it wills so or not) or place any trust in the words. Rather 
the soul understands that the intellect is talking nonsense; it pays 
no attention to it, almost as it wouldn't pay any attention to a 
person it knows is in a frenzy. 

In the words coming from God the experience is as though 
we were listening to a very holy person or to one who is most 
learned with great authority, who we know will not lie to us. 
And even this comparison is a poor one. For these words at times 
bear with them such majesty that even though one does not call 
to mind who it is that speaks them, they make one tremble — if 
they are words of reproof; and if they are words of love, they 
make one dissolve in love. They concern matters, as I said, 6 
which are very far from one's mind. Such long sentences are 
said so quickly that much time would have been necessary to 


St. Teresa of Avila 

compose them, and in no way does it seem to me that we can 
then fail to know that they are something we do not fabricate 
ourselves. Thus, there's no reason for me to delay on this mat- 
ter; rarely it seems can an experienced person be deceived if that 
person does not knowingly want to be deceived. 

7. It has often happened to me that if I have some doubt, I 
do not believe what is spoken to me and think that I imagined 
the words (this I do afterward, for it is impossible to do so at 
the time), and after a long while I see them fulfilled. For the 
Lord causes them to remain in the memory so that they cannot 
be forgotten. But the locutions that come from the intellect are 
like the first stirrings of thought which pass and are forgotten. 
Those that come from God are like a work that — even though 
something of it is forgotten and time passes — it is not so com- 
pletely forgotten that the memory of what in substance was said 
is lost, unless a long time has passed or they are words of favor 
or doctrine. But in my opinion there is no forgetting the words 
of prophecy, at least this is so with me even though I have a 
poor memory. 

8. And I repeat that in my opinion, provided a soul is not 
so impious as to want to make them up — which would be very 
evil — and assert that it hears them when it doesn't, it would be 
impossible for it to fail to realize that it composes and speaks 
them itself and that they haven't come from the Spirit of God. 
Otherwise its whole life could pass under this delusion, and it 
would think it understands — although I don't know how. Either 
this soul desires to understand or it doesn't. If it is getting rid 
of what it understands and in no way desires to understand 
anything, on account of a thousand fears and the many other 
reasons there are for wanting to be quiet and without these things 
during its prayer, how is it that it gives so much leeway to the 
intellect to compose sentences? Time is needed for this. In the 
locutions that come from God, we are taught without losing any 
time; things are understood that it seems would require a month 
to compose, and the intellect itself and the soul are amazed at 
some of the things that are understood. 

9. This is the way it is, and anyone who has experience will 
see that all that I have said is literally so. I praise God because 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 25 


I have been able to describe it in this way. And I finish by say- 
ing that it seems to me that we can understand words coming 
from the intellect whenever we want, and each time we go to 
prayer we could think we understand them. But in the words 
that are from God, this is not so; I will spend many days in which 
it is impossible to understand something even though I may desire 
to. And when at other times I don't want to, as I said, 7 I am 
made to understand. It seems to me that anyone desiring to 
mislead others by telling them that something that was heard 
is from God, when it is from oneself, finds little difficulty in saying 
that it was heard with the bodily ears. And indeed this is truly 
so. For I never thought there could be any other way of hearing 
or understanding until I saw this for myself. And so, as I said, 8 
the experience cost me much difficulty. 

10. When the words are from the devil, not only do they fail 
to have good effects but they leave bad ones. This happened to 
me no more than two or three times, and I was then advised 
by the Lord that the words were from the devil. Besides the great 
dryness that remains, there is a disquiet in the soul like that which 
the Lord permitted many other times when my soul suffered 
severe temptations and trials of different kinds. Although this 
disquiet often torments me as I shall say further on, 9 one is 
unable to understand where the disquiet comes from. It seems 
the soul resists; it is agitated and afflicted without knowing why 
because what he says is not evil but good. I wonder if one spirit 
doesn't feel the presence of the other spirit. The consolation and 
delight that he gives is, in my opinion, very markedly different. 
He could deceive with these consolations someone who does not 
have or has not had other consolations from God. 

11. I am speaking of true spiritual consolations: a gentle 
refreshment — strong, deeply impressed, delightful, and quiet. 
For little devotional feelings of the soul, tears and other little 
sentiments which, at the first small breeze of persecution, lose 
their tiny flowers, I do not call devotions, even though they may 
denote a good beginning and are holy sentiments; but they are 
not sufficient for the discernment of whether these effects are 
from a good or bad spirit. So it is well to be ever on one's guard. 
Persons who have not advanced beyond these devotional feel- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

ings can be easily deceived if they have visions or revelations. 
I never experienced anything of these latter until God had given 
me, solely out of His goodness, the prayer of union — except in 
the case of that first time I mentioned 10 when I saw Christ, 
which happened many years ago. Would that it had pleased His 
Majesty that I might have understood it to be a true vision as 
I did afterward, for it would have done me no small amount 
of good. No mildness remains in the soul when visions or revela- 
tions come from the devil; it is left as though frightened and very 

12.1 hold it to be most certain that the devil will not deceive — 
nor will God permit this — a soul that does not trust itself in 
anything and that is fortified in the faith and understands that 
it would die a thousand deaths for one item of the faith. And 
with this love of the faith, which God then infuses and which 
is a strong living faith, it always strives to proceed in conformi- 
ty with what the Church holds, asking of this one and that, as 
one who has already made a firm assent to these truths. All the 
revelations it could imagine — even if it were to see the heavens 
open — wouldn't move it one bit from what the Church holds. 
If at times it should see itself wavering in its thought against 
this firmness in the faith — I mean that if it doesn't see in itself 
this great fortitude and if the devotion or vision doesn't provide 
help toward this fortitude — it shouldn't consider its locution safe. 
And this applies as well if it should see itself pause to say: "but 
if God tells me this, it can also be true as was what He told the 
saints." I don't mean that the soul believes this, but that the devil 
begins to tempt it through the first urgings — for just to pause 
over this thought is already very wrong. But in this case I believe 
that often not even the first urgings will come if the soul is as 
strong in the faith as the Lord makes the one to whom He grants 
these things, for it seems to the soul that the devils would harsh- 
ly criticize even a very small truth that the Church holds. 

13.1 say that if the soul doesn't see within itself this great for- 
titude and that if the devotion or vision doesn't help toward this, 
it shouldn't consider itself safe. Although it may not immediately 
feel the harm, little by little this harm could become great. For 
from what I see and know through experience, a locution bears 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 25 


the credentials of being from God if it is in conformity with Sacred 
Scripture. And if it should deviate from Scripture just a little, 
I would have incomparably greater assurance that it comes from 
the devil than I now have that it comes from God, however, great 
this latter assurance may be. Then there is no need to go look- 
ing for signs or for the spirit the locution comes from. For this 
sign that it comes from the devil is such a clear one that if the 
whole world were to assure me that the locution comes from God 
I would not believe it. 

The fact is that when the locution comes from the devil it seems 
that all blessings go into hiding and flee from the soul, in that 
it is left displeased and agitated and without any good effect. 
For even though it may seem that good desires are given, they 
are not strong ones. The humility such a locution leaves is false, 
disturbed, and without gentleness. It seems to me that whoever 
has experience of the good spirit will understand. 

14. Still, the devil can play many tricks; so there is nothing 
more certain in this matter than to have greater fear and always 
to seek counsel, to have a master who is a learned man, and 
to hide nothing from him. In this way no harm can come — 
although a lot of harm was done to me through these excessive 
fears that some persons have. Especially, it once happened to 
me that many in whom I had great trust — and there was reason 
for this — gathered together to discuss at length a remedy for me. 
Although I discussed the matter with only one of them, I spoke 
with the others when this person told me to do so. They were 
very fond of me and feared lest I be deceived. I also had the 
greatest fear when I was not in prayer — for when I was in prayer 
and the Lord was granting me some favor, He then assured me. 
I believe there were five or six of them, 11 all great servants of 
God; and my confessor 12 told me that they all came to the deci- 
sion that my experience was from the devil, that I shouldn't 
receive Communion so often, and that I should try to distract 
myself in such a way that I would not be alone. I was extremely 
fearful, as I said; 15 and my heart trouble added to my fear, for 
I didn't very often dare remain in a room alone during the 
daytime. Since I saw that so many agreed that my experience 
was from the devil and that I myself couldn't believe it was, I 


St. Teresa of Avila 

felt the greatest scrupulosity, thinking my inability to believe 
came from my lack of humility. For they all lived a good life — 
incomparably better than I — and they were learned men. Why 
shouldn't I believe them? I forced myself insofar as I could to 
believe what they said, and I thought of my wretched life and 
that in line with this they must be speaking the truth. 

15.1 went out of the church with this affliction and entered 
an oratory. I had for many days given up receiving Commu- 
nion and given up solitude, which was my whole consolation, 
since I had no one with whom to speak. They were all against 
me; some, it seemed, made fun of me when I spoke of the mat- 
ter, as though I were inventing it; others advised my confessor 
to be careful of me; others said that my experience was clearly 
from the devil. My confessor alone (even though he agreed with 
them in order to test me, as I came to know afterward) always 
consoled me and told me that even if my experience were of 
diabolical origin, the devil couldn't do me any harm if I didn't 
offend God, that the locutions would go away in due time, and 
that I should very earnestly beg this of God. And he, his 
penitents, and many others, as well as I in my own prayer, and 
as many as I knew to be servants of God begged His Majesty 
to lead me by another path. This continual beseeching of the 
Lord lasted I guess about two years. 

16. No consolation would suffice for me when I reflected that 
it was possible the devil should speak to me so often. For since 
I did not set apart hours of solitude for prayer, the Lord made 
me become recollected during conversation and, without my be- 
ing able to avoid it, told me what He pleased; even though I 
may not have wanted to I had to listen. 

17.1 was alone then without any person in whom I could find 
some support, unable to pray vocally or read, but terrified by 
so much tribulation and fear as to whether the devil would deceive 
me, completely agitated and wearied without knowing what to 
do with myself. I have seen myself in this affliction some, or 
many, times; but it doesn't seem to me ever to such an extreme. 
I remained in this condition for four or five hours, because there 
was no consolation for me either from heaven or from earth; 
the Lord left me to suffer and to fear a thousand dangers. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 25 


O my Lord, how You are the true friend; and how powerful! 
When You desire You can love, and You never stop loving those 
who love You! All things praise You, Lord of the world! Oh, 
who will cry out for You, to tell everyone how faithful You are 
to Your friends! All things fail; You, Lord of all, never fail! Lit- 
tle it is, that which You allow the one who loves You to suffer! 
Oh my Lord! How delicately and smoothly and delightfully You 
treat them! Would that no one ever pause to love anyone but 
You! It seems, Lord, You try with rigor the person who loves 
You so that in extreme trial she might understand the greatest 
extreme of Your love. Oh my God, who has the understanding, 
the learning, and the new words with which to extol Your works 
as my soul understands them? All fails me, my Lord; but if You 
do not abandon me, I will not fail You. Let all learned men rise 
up against me, let all created things persecute me, let the devils 
torment me; do not You fail me, Lord, for I already have ex- 
perience of the gain that comes from the way You rescue the 
one who trusts in You alone. 

18. While in this great affliction then (although at that time 
I had not begun to have any vision), these words alone were 
enough to take it away and bring me complete quiet: "Do not 
fear, daughter; for I am, and I will not abandon you; do not 
fear." It seems to me that from the way I felt many hours would 
have been necessary and no one would have been able to per- 
suade me to be at peace. And behold by these words alone I 
was given calm together with fortitude, courage, security, 
quietude, and light so that in one moment I saw my soul become 
another. It seems to me I would have disputed with the entire 
world that these words came from God. Oh, what a good God! 
Oh, how good a Lord and how powerful! He provides not only 
the counsel but also the remedy! His words are works! Oh, God 
help me; and how He strengthens faith and increases love! 

19. Hence it is, indeed, that I often recalled the time the Lord 
commanded the winds to be quiet when the storm arose at 
sea, 11 and so I said: Who is this that all my faculties obey Him 
thus, who gives in a moment and in the midst of such great 
darkness, who softens a heart that seemed like stone, and who 
gives the water of gentle tears where it seemed there would be 


St. Teresa of Avila 

dryness for a long time? Who imparts these desires? Who bestows 
this courage? For it occurred to me to think: What do I fear? 
What is this? I desire to serve this Lord; I aim for nothing else 
but to please Him. I want no happiness, no rest, no other good 
but to do His will (for I felt deeply certain in my opinion that 
I could make this assertion). If this Lord is powerful, as I see 
that He is and I know that He is, and if the devils are His slaves 
(and there is no doubt about this because it's a matter of faith), 
what evil can they do to me since I am a servant of this Lord 
and King? Why shouldn't I have the fortitude to engage in com- 
bat with all of hell? 

I took a cross in my hand, and it seemed to me truly that God 
gave me courage because in a short while I saw that I was another 
person and that I wouldn't fear bodily combat with them; for 
I thought that with that cross I would easily conquer all of them. 
So I said: "Come now all of you, for, being a servant of the Lord, 
I want to see what you can do to me." 

20. There was no doubt, in my opinion, that they were afraid 
of me, for I remained so calm and so unafraid of them all. All 
the fears I usually felt left me — even to this day. For although 
I sometimes saw them, as I shall relate afterward, 15 I no longer 
had hardly any fear of them; rather it seemed they were afraid 
of me. I was left with a mastery over them truly given by the 
Lord of all; I pay no more attention to them than to flies. I think 
they're such cowards that when they observe they are esteemed 
but little, their strength leaves them. These enemies don't know 
how to attack head-on, save those whom they see surrender to 
them, or when God permits them to do so for the greater good 
of His servants whom they tempt and torment. May it please 
His Majesty that we fear Him whom we ought to fear and 
understand that more harm can come to us from one venial sin 
than from all hell together — for this is so, 

21 . How frightened these devils make us because we want to 
be frightened through other attachments to honors, property, 
and delights! It is then that they do lis great harm, when they 
are joined with us who loving and desiring what we ought to 
abhor are in contradiction with ourselves For we make them 
fight against us with our own verv weapons, handing over to 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 26 


them what we need for our own defense. This is a great pity. 
But if we abhor all for God and we embrace the cross and try 
truly to serve God, the devil will flee these truths like the plague. 
He is a friend of lies, and is the lie itself. He will make no pact 
with anyone who walks in truth. When he sees the intellect 
darkened, he subtly helps to blind the eyes. For if he sees people 
already blind by the fact that they place their trust in vain things 
(and so vain that these worldly things become like children's 
games), he concludes that they are then children, treats them 
as such, and dares to fight with them not once but many times. 

22. May it please the Lord that I not be one of these but that 
His Majesty favor me so that I may understand by repose what 
repose is, by honor what honor is, and by delight what delight 
is — not the reverse; and a fig 16 for all the devils, because they 
shall fear me. I don't understand these fears, "The devil! The 
devil!", when we can say "God! God", and make the devil trem- 
ble. Yes, for we already know that he cannot stir if the Lord 
doesn't permit him to. What is this? Without doubt, I fear those 
who have such great fear of the devil more than I do the devil 
himself, for he can't do anything to me. Whereas these others, 
especially if they are confessors, cause severe disturbance; I have 
undergone some years of such great trial that I am amazed now 
at how I was able to suffer it. Blessed be the Lord who has so 
truly helped me! 

Chapter 26 

Continues on the same subject. Tells and explains about things that hap- 
pened to her, which both caused her to lose the fear and confirmed that 
it was the good spirit speaking to her. 

I CONSIDER THIS COURAGE the Lord gave me against 
the devils one of the great favors He granted me. For that 
a soul should be intimidated by or fearful of anything other than 
offending God is a serious disadvantage. Since we have an all- 
powerful King and so great a Lord that He can do all and that 
He brings all under His subjection, there is nothing to fear, if 


St. Teresa of Avila 

one walks, as I said, 1 in truth in the presence of His Majesty 
and with a pure conscience. Hence, as I said, I would desire 
all fears so as not to offend for an instant Him who in an instant 
can annihilate us, because it pleases His Majesty that there be 
no one against us whom He will not put to flight. 

One could say that this statement is true, but ask further who 
this soul is that is so upright it pleases God completely, and con- 
clude that thus the soul should fear. Certainly it's not my soul, 
which is very wretched, unprofitable, and filled with a thousand 
miseries. But God doesn't carry out His work as people do; He 
understands our weaknesses. Through extensive conjecturing 
the soul feels within itself that it truly loves Him; in those who 
reach this state love isn't disguised as in the beginning stages, 
but it operates with such powerful impulses and desires to see 
God, as I shall say afterward or have already said, 2 that 
everything is tiring, everything wearies, everything torments. 
If it is not with God or for God, there is no rest that doesn't 
weary it; so this love is something very clear and, as I say, doesn't 
pass by in disguise. 

2. It happened to me at other times that I was suffering great 
tribulations and criticism, on account of a certain matter I shall 
speak of afterward, from almost the entire city where I live and 
from my order, 3 and afflicted by the many occasions there were 
for becoming disturbed, when the Lord said to me: "Why are you 
afraid? Do you not know that I am all-powerful? I will fulfill 
what I have promised." (And it was truly fulfilled later.) I was 
immediately left with such fortitude that it seemed to me I would 
again undertake other things, even though they would cost me 
greater trials, and I would once more take suffering upon myself 
in order to serve Him. This has happened so many times that 
I wouldn't be able to count them. Often His words to me were 
rebukes — and still are when I commit imperfections. These 
rebukes are enough to dissolve a soul; at least they bear amend- 
ment with them, because His Majesty, as I said, 4 gives both 
the counsel and the cure. At other times the locutions bring my 
past sins to mind — especially when the Lord wants to grant me 
some exceptional favor; it seems the soul is already before the 
true Judge since they represent the truth to it with such clear 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 26 


understanding that it doesn't know where to hide. At other times 
the Lord warns me of some dangers I'm in, or of other persons, 
and about things of the future — three or four years in advance 
very often — all of which have been fulfulled. Some of these can 
be pointed out concretely. Thus there are so many reasons for 
knowing that the words come from God that in my opinion one 
cannot be ignorant of this. 

3. The safest thing, as the Lord told me, is to make known 
to my confessor the whole state of my soul and the favors God 
grants me, that he be learned, and that I obey him. The Lord 
has often told me this. It is what I do, and without doing so I 
would have no peace; nor would it be good for women to have 
a feeling of security since we don't have any learning. Hence 
there can be no harm but much to gain. 

I had a confessor who mortified me very much and was some- 
times an affliction and great trial to me because he disturbed 
me exceedingly, and he was the one who profited me the most 
as far as I can tell. 5 And although I had a great love for him, 
I had some temptations to leave him because it seemed to me 
the affliction he caused me hindered my prayer. Every time that 
I was determined to change, I then heard that I should not do 
so and a rebuke that grieved me more than the confessor did. 
Sometimes I grew weary: on the one hand I was questioning 
and on the other hand being rebuked — all was necessary because 
my will did not easily bend. The Lord told me once that it wasn't 
obedience if I wasn't resolved to suffer, that I should fix my eyes 
on what He suffered, and that all would by easy. 

4. One time a confessor who heard my confession at the begin- 
ning advised me that once the locutions were proven to be from 
the good spirit I should be silent and not speak about them to 
anyone, because it would then be better to remain quiet about 
these things. This didn't seem wrong to me, because each time 
I told the confessor about the locutions my feeling of shame was 
so strong that sometimes I felt it more than when I had serious 
sins to confess. It seemed to me, especially when the favors were 
great, that the confessors would not believe me and would make 
fun of me. I felt this so strongly that I thought telling them about 
these favors would be disrespectful to the wonders of God, and 


St. Teresa of Avila 

that for this reason I should remain silent. I then understood 
that the advice of that confessor was very wrong, that I should 
in no way remain silent with my confessor, for there would be 
great security in telling him, and that by not doing this I could 
sometimes be deceived. 

5. As often as the Lord commanded something of me in prayer 
and my confessor told me to do otherwise, the Lord returned 
and told me to obey my confessor; afterward His Majesty would 
change the confessor's mind, and he would agree with the Lord's 
command. When they forbade the reading of many books in 
the vernacular, 6 I felt that prohibition very much because 
reading some of them was an enjoyment for me, and I could 
no longer do so since only the Latin editions were allowed. The 
Lord said to me: "Don't be sad, for I shall give you a living book." 
I was unable to understand why this was said to me, since I had 
not yet experienced any visions. Afterward, within only a few 
days, I understood very clearly, because I received so much to 
think about and such recollection in the presence of what I saw, 
and the Lord showed so much love for me by teaching me in 
many ways, that I had very little or almost no need for books. 
His Majesty had become the true book in which I saw the truths. 
Blessed be such a book that leaves what must be read and done 
so impressed that you cannot forget! Who is it that sees the Lord 
covered with wounds and afflicted with persecutions who will 
not embrace them, love them, and desire them? Who beholds 
something of the glory that He gives to those who serve Him 
who doesn't know that all one can do and suffer is nothing since 
we hope for such a reward? Who sees the torments suffered by 
the damned who doesn't find the torments of earth to be delights 
in comparison with them and doesn't know how much one owes 
the Lord for having been freed so often from that place? 

6. Because with God's help more will be said about some of 
these things, I want to get on with the account of my life. May 
it please the Lord that in what I said I knew how to explain 
myself. I firmly believe that whoever has had experience will 
understand and see that I succeeded in saying something; 
whoever has not had experience — I wouldn't be surprised if it 
all seems to be nonsense to such a one. It is enough that I have 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 27 


said this for that person to be excused, nor would I blame anyone 
who says it is nonsense. May the Lord help me to succeed in 
doing His will. Amen. 

Chapter 27 

Treats of another way in which the Lord instructs the soul and, without 
speaking to it, makes His will known in a wonderful manner. Explains 
also a non-imaginative vision and great favor the Lord granted her. This 
chapter is very noteworthy. 

I was enduring this difficult affliction, and, as I have 
said, 1 many prayers were being offered up that the Lord might 
lead me by another safer path since this one, they told me, was 
so suspect. The truth of the matter is that even though I was 
beseeching God and however much I wanted to desire another 
path, it wasn't in my power to desire it, even though I always 
prayed for it, because I saw my soul so improved — except 
sometimes when I was very worn out from the things they told 
me and the fears they caused. I saw that I was a completely dif- 
ferent person. I could not desire another path, but I placed myself 
in the hands of God that He would carry out His will complete- 
ly in me; He knew what suited me. I saw that on this road I 
was being led to heaven, that previously I had been going to 
hell, and that I should want to follow this road and not believe 
that it had the devil as cause. Nor was I able to force myself, 
even though I did all I could, to believe and desire another road; 
it wasn't in my power to do so. I offered up what I did, if there 
was some good deed, for this intention. I invoked my favorite 
saints that they might free me from the devil. I made novenas. 
I recommended myself to St. Hilarion and to St. Michael the 
Archangel, of whom again I became a devotee for this purpose, 
and I begged many other saints that the Lord might show the 
truth — I mean that they might obtain this for me from His 


St. Teresa of Avila 

2. After two years of all these prayers of mine and those of 
others offered for the said intention (that the Lord would either 
lead me by another way or make known the truth, for the locu- 
tions I mentioned 2 that the Lord granted me were experienced 
very repeatedly), the following happened to me. Being in prayer 
on the feastday of the glorious St. Peter, I saw or, to put it bet- 
ter, I felt Christ beside me; I saw nothing with my bodily eyes 
or with my soul, but it seemed to me that Christ was at my side — 
I saw that it was He, in my opinion, who was speaking to me. 
Since I was completely unaware that there could be a vision like 
this one, it greatly frightened me in the beginning; I did nothing 
but weep. However, by speaking one word alone to assure me, 
the Lord left me feeling as I usually did: quiet, favored, and 
without any fear. It seemed to me that Jesus Christ was always 
present at my side; but since this wasn't an imaginative vision, 5 
I didn't see any form. Yet I felt very clearly that He was always 
present at my right side and that He was the witness of everything 
I did. At no time in which I was a little recollected, or not greatly 
distracted, was I able to ignore that He was present at my side. 

3. I immediately went very anxiously to my confessor to tell 
him. He asked me in what form I saw Him. I answered that 
I didn't see Him. He asked how I knew that it was Christ. 1 
answered that I didn't know how, but that I couldn't help knowing 
that He was beside me, that I saw and felt Him clearly, that 
my recollection of soul was greater, and that I was very con- 
tinuously in the prayer of quiet, that the effects were much dif- 
ferent from those I usually experienced, and that it was very clear. 

I could do nothing but draw comparisons in order to explain 
myself. And, indeed, there is no comparison that fits this kind 
of vision very well. Since this vision is among the most sublime 
(as I was afterward told by a very holy and spiritual man, whose 
name is Friar Peter of Alcantara and of whom I shall speak 
later, 4 and by other men of great learning) and the kind in 
which the devil can interfere the least of all, there are no means 
by which those of us who know little here below can explain it. 
Learned men will explain it better. For if I say that I see it with 
the eyes neither of the body nor of the soul, because it is not 
an imaginative vision, how do I know and affirm that He is more 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 27 


certainly at my side than if I saw Him? It is incorrect to think 
that the vision is like that experience of those who are blind or 
in the dark who don't see the other at their side. There is some 
likeness in this comparison but not a great deal, because in such 
a case these people experience with their senses: either they hear 
the other person speak or stir, or they touch them. In the vision 
there is nothing of this, nor do you see darkness; but the vision 
is represented through knowledge given to the soul that is clearer 
than sunlight. I don't mean that you see the sun or brightness, 
but that a light, without your seeing light, illumines the intellect 
so that the soul may enjoy such a great good. The vision bears 
with it wonderful blessings. 

4. This vision is not like the presence of God that is often felt, 
especially by those who experience the prayer of union or quiet, 
in which it seems that in desiring to begin to practice prayer 
we find Him to speak to, and it seems we know that He hears 
us through the effects and spiritual feelings of great love and 
faith that we tenderly experience, and through other resolutions. 
This presence is a great favor from God and should be highly 
esteemed by the one He gives it to, for it is a very sublime prayer, 
but it is not a vision; in this prayer of union or quiet one 
understands that God is present by the effects that, as I say, He 
grants to the soul — that is the way His Majesty wants to give 
the experience of Himself. In this vision it is seen clearly that 
Jesus Christ, son of the Virgin, is present. In the prayer of union 
or quiet some impressions of the Divinity are bestowed; in this 
vision, along with the impressions, you see that also the most 
sacred humanity accompanies us and desires to grant us favors. 

5. Then the confessor asked me, "Who said it was Jesus 
Christ?" "He told me many times," I answered. But before He 
told me He impressed upon my intellect that it was He, and 
before doing this latter He told me He was present — but I didn't 
see Him. If a person whom I had never seen but only heard 
of should come to speak to me while I was blind or in the pitch 
dark and tell me who he was, I would believe it; but I wouldn't 
be able to assert as strongly that it was that person as I would 
if I saw him. In the case of this vision, I would; for, without 
being seen, it is impressed with such clear knowledge that I don't 


St. Teresa of Avila 

think it can be doubted. The Lord desires to be so engraved upon 
the intellect that this vision can no more be doubted than can 
what is seen; and even less, because when we see we sometimes 
suspect we may have fancied what we saw. In this vision, even 
though a suspicion may at first arise, there remains on the other 
hand such great certitude that the doubt has no force. 

6. Hence, there is also another way in which God teaches the 
soul and speaks to it, different from the manner of speaking 
described previously. 5 It is a language that belongs so to 
heaven that here on earth it is poorly understood, no matter how 
much we may desire to tell about it, if the Lord does not teach 
us through experience. The Lord puts what He wants the soul 
to know very deeply within it, and there He makes this known 
without image or explicit words, but in the manner of this vision 
we mentioned. 6 And this manner in which God gives the soul 
understanding of His desires and great truths and mysteries is 
worthy of close attention. Often this is the way I understand when 
His Majesty explains some vision He wishes to represent to me. 
It seems to me that for the following reasons 7 the devil can in- 
terfere least in this experience. If these reasons aren't good ones, 
I must be wrong. 

7. This kind of vision and language is something so spiritual 
that there is no restlessness in the faculties or in the senses, in 
my opinion, by which the devil can deduce anything. 
Sometimes— briefly — this suspension takes place; but at other 
times it seems to me that the faculties are not suspended, nor 
are the senses withdrawn but very much present. This vision 
and locution doesn't always come during contemplation; it very 
seldom does. Yet, when it comes, I say that we neither act nor 
do anything; all seems to be the work of the Lord. It's as though 
the food were already placed in the stomach without our eating 
it or knowing how it got there. It is clearly known to be there, 
although the stomach doesn't know what food it is or who put 
it there. But in the case of these locutions, the intellect does know, 
yet it doesn't know how the locution got there; nothing is seen 
or understood, nor was the soul ever moved to desire it — nor 
had I ever been informed that this was possible. 

8. In the locution we spoke of previously, 8 God makes the 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 27 

intellect become aware — even though it may not wish to do so — 
and understand what is said; in that experience the soul seemingly 
has other ears with which it hears, and God makes it listen, and 
it is not distracted. It's like this: if people have good hearing and 
don't block their ears and are spoken to in a loud voice, they 
hear, even though they may not want to; and, in fact, they do 
something, since they are attentive in order to understand what 
is spoken to them. 

In the locution we are now speaking of, there is none of the 
above; even this little thing of only listening, which the soul did 
in the previous locution, is taken away. It finds everything 
prepared and eaten. There is nothing more to do than to enjoy, 
as in the example of someone who without having learned or 
done any work to know how to read, and without having studied 
anything, would find that all knowledge was possessed inwardly, 
without knowing how or where it was gotten since no studying 
had been done, nor even had the abc's been learned. 

9. This last comparison seems to me to explain something 
about this heavenly gift, for the soul sees that in an instant it 
is wise; the mystery of the Blessed Trinity and other sublime 
things are so explained that there is no theologian with whom 
it would not dispute in favor of the truth of these grandeurs. 
It is left full of amazement; one of these favors is enough to change 
a soul completely, free it from the love of things, and make it 
love Him who it sees makes it capable, without any effort of its 
own, of blessings so great, who communicates secrets to it and 
treats it with such friendship and love that one cannot describe 
this in writing. He grants some favors that would be suspect, 
since they are so admirable and granted to someone who has 
so little merited them. Those who don't have a very living faith 
will be unable to believe in them. So I am thinking of speaking 
but little of the favors the Lord granted me — unless I'm ordered 
to do otherwise — except for certain visions that can do some good 
for others; or so that the one to whom the Lord may grant them 
doesn't become frightened, as I did, in thinking the experience 
is impossible; or that I might explain the manner and path by 
which the Lord led me, which is what they commanded me to 
write about. I 


St. Teresa of Avila 

10. Returning then to the discussion of this kind of under- 
standing, it seems to me that the Lord in every way wants this 
soul to have some knowledge of what goes on in heaven. I think 
that just as in heaven you understand without speaking (which 
I certainly never knew until the Lord in His goodness desired 
that I should see and showed Himself to me in a rapture), so 
it is in this vision. For God and the soul understand each other 
only through the desire His Majesty has that it understand Him, 
without the use of any other means devised to manifest the love 
these two friends have for each other. It's like the experience 
of two persons here on earth who love each other deeply and 
understand each other well; even without signs, just by a glance, 
it seems, they understand each other. This must be similar to 
what happens in the vision; without our knowing how, these two 
lovers gaze directly at each other, as the Bridegroom says to the 
Bride in the Song of Songs — q I think I heard that it is there. 

1 1 . O admirable kindness of God, You allow me to gaze upon 
You with eyes that have so badly gazed as have those of my soul. 
May they, Lord, become accustomed through this vision not 
to look at base things, so that nothing outside of You might satisfy 
them! O ingratitude of mortals! To what extremes will you go? 
For I know through experience that what I say is true and that 
what can be said is the least of what You do, Lord, for a soul 
You bring to such frontiers. O souls that have begun to prac- 
tice prayer and have true faith, what good things can you still 
seek in this life — leaving aside what is gained for eternity — that 
could compare with the least of these favors? 

12. Reflect that it is indeed certain that God gives Himself 
in this way to those who give up all for Him. He shows no par- 
tiality, 10 He loves everyone. Nobody has any excuse, no mat- 
ter how miserable they may be, since the Lord so acts with me 
in bringing me to such a state. Note that what I say is not even 
a compendium of what could be said. I only say what is necessary 
to explain this kind of vision and favor the Lord grants the soul. 
But I can't describe what is felt when the Lord gives it an 
understanding of His secrets and grandeurs, the delight that so 
surpasses all those knowable here on earth; indeed, it rightly 
makes you abhor the delights of this life, which together are all 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 27 


rubbish. I would find it revolting to have to try to make a com- 
parison between the two delights, even if those of earth were 
to last forever and those given by the Lord were only a drop 
of water from the vast overflowing river that is prepared for us. 

13. It is a shame, and I certainly am ashamed of myself; if 
one were able to be embarrassed in heaven, I would be more 
embarrassed there than anyone! Why must we want so many 
blessings and delights and so much endless glory all at the cost 
of the good Jesus? Shall we not at least weep with the daughters 
of Jerusalem since we do not, with the Cyrenian, 11 help Him 
carry His cross? How can we enjoy along with pleasures and 
pastimes what He won for us at the cost of so much blood? It's 
impossible! And do we think that with vain honors we can imitate 
Him in the contempt He suffered so that we might reign forever? 
Such a road leads nowhere; it's the wrong, wrong road; we will 
never arrive by it. 

Your Reverance ought to cry out these truths since God has 
taken from me freedom to do so. I should like them to be pro- 
claimed to me always; yet I've been so slow myself to hear and 
understand God, as will be seen in what is written here, that 
it is very embarrassing to speak about this; as a result I desire 
to be silent. I shall only say what sometimes comes to mind. 
May it please the Lord to bring me to the goal that I might enjoy 
this blessing. 

14. What accidental glory and what happiness will be the lot 
of the blessed when they see that, even though late, nothing 
possible remained for them to do for God and that in conformity 
with their strength and state they left nothing undone for Him, 
and in having more, gave more! How rich they will find that 
they are, they who have left all riches for Christ! How honored 
will they be, they who have not sought honor from Him but have 
enjoyed seeing themselves humbled! How wise will they be, they 
who rejoiced to be considered mad because that is what Wisdom 
Himself was called! How few madmen there are now — on ac- 
count of our sins! Truly it seems that now there are no more 
of those whom people considered mad for doing the heroic deeds 
of true lovers of Christ. O world, world, how you go on gaining 
in honor by having few who know you! 


St. Teresa of Avila 

15. But do we think that God is now served more if we are 
considered wise and discreet! That really must be the reason so 
much discretion is used. We are quick to believe that not much 
edification is given if each one doesn't proceed, according to one's 
state, with composure and authority. Even a friar, cleric, or nun 
would think that to wear something old and patched would be 
a kind of novelty and would give scandal to the weak; and that 
even recollection and the practice of prayer would do this. The 
world has such a mentality and has so forgotten the great perfec- 
tion and lofty impulses of love the saints experienced that I think 
this mentality causes more harm and misfortune in these troubled 
times we live in than the scandals caused by religious when they 
back up with deeds what they say with words about how little 
the world should be esteemed; from such scandals the Lord draws 
forth great blessings. If some are scandalized, others come to 
their senses. At least there would be offered an image of what 
Christ and His Apostles suffered since now more than ever such 
an image is needed. 

16. And what a good image of Christ God took from us now 
in the blessed Friar Peter of Alcantara! The world cannot at this 
time endure so much perfection. They say that our health is 
weaker and that these times are not like those of the past. Yet 
this holy man belonged to the present age. His spirit is large, 
as in times past; so he trampled the world under foot. Although 
others may not be detached or perform such harsh penance as 
he, there are many ways, as I've said at other times, 12 of 
trampling on the world; the Lord teaches them when He sees 
the courage. And what marvelous courage His Majesty gave this 
great saint of whom I'm speaking in order that he perform such 
rough penance, as everyone knows, for forty-seven years! I want 
to say something about this penance, for I know the facts are 
all true. 

17. He told me of it, and also another person 13 from whom 
he hid nothing. (The reason he told me was his love for me, 
for the Lord desired this so that he would return and encourage 
me at a time of great need, as I said and will say.) 14 I think he 
told me that for forty years he slept only an hour and a half dur- 
ing the night and that in the beginning this was his greatest 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 27 


penitential trial, to conquer sleep, and that to do this he was 
always either on his knees or standing. When he did sleep, he 
did so sitting up, with his head resting on a little log nailed to 
the wall. He could not have stretched out even if he wanted to, 
because his cell — as is known — was no larger than four and a 
half feet. However hot or rainy the weather was in all those years, 
he never put up his cowl; he wore nothing on his feet, nor did 
he wear any clothes other than a coarse serge habit with nothing 
else to cover the body — that was as tight as could be, and a short 
mantle over it made of the same material. He told me that when 
it was terribly cold he took the mantle off and left the door and 
little window of his cell opened so that afterward by putting the 
mantle on again and closing the door he was able to appease 
the body by the warmth that came from more covering. Eating 
every third day was a very common practice for him, and he 
told me when I showed surprise that it was easily possible for 
anyone who got used to doing so. One of his companions told 
me that once Friar Peter went eight days without eating. It must 
have happened while he was in prayer, for he experienced great 
raptures and impulses of love of God, of which I was once a 

18. His practice of poverty and mortification during his youth 
was extreme. He told me that he had lived in a house of his order 
for three years and, because he had never raised his eyes, had 
not known any of the friars save by their voice, and that he hadn't 
known how to get to the places where he had to go, but followed 
the oth^r friars. This he did on his journeys. He never looked 
at women for many years. He told me that it no longer made 
any difference whether he saw or did not see. But he was very 
old when I came to know him, 11 and so extremely weak that it 
seemed he was made of nothing but tree roots. 

Yet with all this sanctity he was very affable, although his 
words were few unless he was questioned. He was very plea- 
sant in his speech because he had a bright mind. There are many 
other things I should like to say, but I am afraid your Reverence 
will ask why I'm getting into all this — and I've written it with 
this fear. Hence, I will conclude by saying that his ending was 
like his life, preaching to his friars and admonishing them. When 


St. Teresa of Avila 

he saw that he was dying, he recited the psalm, Laetatus sum in 
his quae dicta sunt mihi, 16 and casting himself on his knees, he 

19. Afterward the Lord was pleased that I receive more help 
from him — through the counsel he gave me about many 
matters — than I did during his life. I have often seen him in the 
greatest glory. He told me the first time he appeared to me that 
the penance that merited such a reward was a blessed penance, 
and many other things. One year before he died, though being 
some leagues away from here, he appeared to me; since I knew 
he was going to die, I told him so. When he died, he appeared 
to me and told me that he was going to his rest. I didn't believe 
it, but did tell some persons; after eight days the news came that 
he was dead, or, better, that he had begun to live forever. 

20. Behold how this harsh life ended with such great glory. 
I think he consoles me much more than when he was here on 
earth. The Lord once told me that nothing would be sought in 
Friar Peter's name that He would not bestow. Many of the things 
I've recommended to his prayers I've seen fulfilled. May the Lord 
be blessed forever, amen. 

21. But what a discourse I've got into! May it awaken your 
Reverence so that you will not esteem anything pertaining to 
this life — as though you didn't know and weren't already deter- 
mined to abandon all, and hadn't already put this renunciation 
into practice! 

I see so much perdition in the world that even though my 
writing about it brings me no more benefit than to tire me out, 
I find rest in doing so; for everything I have written is against 
myself. May the Lord pardon me for my offenses against Him 
in this matter, and may your Reverence do so too, for I tire you 
unintentionally. It appears that I want you to do penance for 
my sins in this matter. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 28 


Chapter 28 

Deals with the great favors the Lord granted her and how He appeared 
to her the first time. Explains what an imaginative vision is. Tells about 
the remarkable effects and signs this vision leaves behind when it is from 
God. This is a very instructive chapter and well worth noting. 

TO RETURN TO OUR TOPIC, 1 I passed some days -a 
few — in which I experienced this vision continually; it did 
me so much good that I never left prayer. No matter how much 
I did, I strove that it be done in such a way that it would not 
displease the One who I clearly saw was witnessing it. And 
although sometimes I was afraid on account of all the warnings 
they were giving, this fear didn't last long, because the Lord was 
giving me assurance. 

One day, while I was in prayer, the Lord desired to show me 
only His hands which were so very beautiful that I would be 
unable to exaggerate the beauty. This vision caused me great 
fear; any supernatural favor the Lord grants me frightens me 
at first, when it is new. After a few days I saw also that divine 
face which it seems left me completely absorbed. Since after- 
ward He granted me the favor of seeing Him entirely, I couldn't 
understand why the Lord showed Himself to me in this way, 
little by little, until later I understood that His Majesty was 
leading me in accordance with my natural weakness. May He 
be blessed forever! So much glory would have been unbearable 
next to so lowly and wretched a subject as I; and as one who 
knew this, the merciful Lord was preparing me. 

2. It will seem to your Reverence that strength like this wasn't 
necessary to see some hands and so beautiful a face. Glorified 
bodies have such beauty that the sight of so supernatural a beauty 
deriving from glory causes confusion. Thus the vision caused 
me a fear so great that I was completely agitated and disturbed, 
although afterward I remained so certain and secure and felt 
such other effects that I immediately lost the fear. 

3. One feastday of St. Paul, while I was at Mass, this most 
sacred humanity in its risen form was represented to me com- 
pletely, as it is in paintings, with such wonderful beauty and 


St. Teresa of Avila 

majesty; I have written about it in particular to your Reverence 
when you insistently ordered me to do so. And writing about 
it was very difficult for me to do because one cannot describe 
this vision without ruining it. But as best I could I have already 
told you about it, 2 and so there is no reason to speak of it here 
again. I only say that if there were nothing else to provide delight 
for one's vision in heaven than the exalted beauty of glorified 
bodies, this vision would be very great glory, especially the vi- 
sion of the humanity of Jesus Christ, our Lord. And if even here 
on earth His Majesty shows Himself according to what our 
wretchedness can bear, what will be the glory when such a bless- 
ing is enjoyed completely? 

4. I never saw this vision — nor any other — with my bodily 
eyes, even though it is an imaginative one. 

Those who know more about these matters than I say that 
the intellectual vision is more perfect than this one and that this 
one is much more perfect than visions seen with the bodily eyes. 
These latter, corporeal visions, they say, are the lowest and the 
kind in which the devil can cause more illusions; although at 
that time I couldn't understand this. But since an imaginative 
vision was being granted to me, I desired that I might see it with 
my bodily eyes so that my confessor wouldn't tell me that I had 
imagined it. And after the vision passed away, it also happened 
to me — and this was at once — that I thought that I had imag- 
ined it; thinking I had deceived my confessor, I was bothered 
about having told it to him. This was another cause for tears, 
and I went and explained to him. He asked me whether it just 
seemed to me that I had deceived him or whether I had desired 
to deceive him. I told him the truth, for, in rny opinion, I had 
not lied, nor had I intended to; nor for anything in the world 
would I say one thing for another. He well knew this, and so 
he tried to calm me. I felt so sorry for having gone to him with 
these things, for I don't know how the devil got me to torment 
myself with the thought that I had made up the vision. 

But so quickly did the Lord grant me this favor and declare 
this truth that very soon the doubt about my imagining it left 
me, and afterward I saw clearly my foolishness. If I should have 
spent many years trying to imagine how to depict something 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 28 


so beautiful, I couldn't have, nor would I have known how to; 
it surpasses everything imaginable here on earth, even in just 
its whiteness and splendor. 

5. The splendor is not one that dazzles; it has a soft whiteness, 
is infused, gives the most intense delight to the sight, and doesn't 
tire it; neither does the brilliance, in which is seen the vision 
of so divine a beauty, tire it. It is a light so different from earth- 
ly light that the sun's brightness that we see appears very tar- 
nished in comparison with that brightness and light represented 
to the sight, and so different that afterward you wouldn't want 
to open your eyes. It's like the difference between a sparkling, 
clear water that flows over crystal and on which the sun is re- 
flecting and a very cloudy, muddy water flowing along the 
ground. This doesn't mean that the sun is represented or that 
the light resembles sunlight. It seems in fact like natural light, 
and the sunlight seems artificial. It is a light that has no night; 
nothing troubles it. In sum, it is of such a kind that a person 
couldn't imagine what it is like in all of life's days no matter how 
powerful the intellect. God gives it so suddenly that there wouldn't 
even be time to open your eyes, if it were necessary to open them. 
For when the Lord desires to give the vision, it makes no more 
difference if they are opened than if they are closed; even if we 
do not desire to see the vision, it is seen. No distraction is enough 
to resist it, nor is there power or diligence or care enough to 
do so. I have clearly experienced this, as I shall say.^ 

6. What I should now like to speak of is the way in which 
the Lord reveals Himself by means of these visions. I dont mean 
that I shall explain how such a strong light can be put in the 
interior faculty and so clear an image put in the intellect — for 
it seems truly that that's where it is — because this is something 
for men of learning to explain. The Lord has not given me 
understanding of how this is done, and I am so ignorant and 
my intellect so dull that to no matter what extent these men of 
learning have desired to explain to me how this vision comes 
about, I have still not been able to understand. It is certain that 
even though it seems to your Reverence that I have a lively in- 
tellect, I do not. In many things I've experienced that I don't 
know any more than what is given me to eat, as the saying goes. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Sometimes my confessors have been amazed at my ignorance. 
And I have never understood, nor have I desired to understand, 
how God causes this vision or how it could come about, nor did 
I ask, even though, as I have said, 4 for many years now I've 
had contact with competent men of learning. Whether something 
was a sin or not — yes, this I did discuss with them. As for the 
rest, it wasn't necessary for me to think anything but that God 
did it all. I saw there was no reason for me to be startled but 
to praise Him. Indeed the difficult things He does cause more 
devotion in me; and the more difficult, the more devotion they 

7. I shall then say what I have come to see through experience. 
How the Lord does it, your Reverence will speak of better than 
I, and will explain what remains obscure and what I may not 
have known how to say. It seemed clear to me in some cases 
that what I saw was an image, but in many other instances, no; 
rather, it was Christ Himself by reason of the clarity with which 
He was pleased to reveal Himself to me. Sometimes the vision 
was so obscure that it seemed to me an image, not like an earth- 
ly drawing no matter how perfect it may be — for I have seen 
many good ones. It is foolish to think that an earthly drawing 
can look anything like a vision; it does so no more nor less than 
living persons resemble their portraits. No matter how good the 
portrait may have turned out, it can't look so natural that in 
the end it isn't recognized as a dead thing. But let us leave this 
example aside; it applies well here and is very exact. 

8. I don't say this example is a comparison — for comparisons 
are never so exact — but the truth. The difference lies in that 
which there is between living persons and paintings of them — 
no more nor less. For if what is seen is an image, it is a living 
image — not a dead man, but the living Christ. And He makes 
it known that He is both man and God, not as He was in the 
tomb but as He was when He came out of the tomb after His 
resurrection. Sometimes He comes with such great majesty that 
no one could doubt but that it is the Lord Himself. Especially 
after receiving Communion — for we know that He is present, 
since our faith tells us this — He reveals Himself as so much the 
lord of this dwelling that it seems the soul is completely dissolved; 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 28 


and it sees itself consumed in Christ. O my Jesus! Who could 
make known the majesty with which You reveal Yourself! And, 
Lord of all the world and of the heavens, of a thousand other 
worlds and of numberless worlds, and of the heavens that You 
might create, how the soul understands by the majesty with which 
You reveal Yourself that it is nothing for You to be Lord of the 

9. In this vision the powerlessness of all the devils in com- 
parison with Your power is clearly seen, my Jesus; and it is seen 
how whoever is pleasing to You can trample all hell under foot. 
In this vision the reason is seen why the devils feared when You 
descended into limbo and why they would have preferred to be 
in another thousand lower hells in order to flee from such great 
majesty. I see that You want the soul to know how tremendous 
this majesty is and the power that this most sacred humanity 
joined with the Divinity has. In this vision there is a clear 
representation of what it will be like on Judgment Day to see 
the majesty of this King and to see its severity toward those who 
are evil. This vision is the source of the true humility left in the 
soul when it sees its misery, which it cannot ignore. This vision 
is the source of confusion and true repentance for sins; although 
the soul sees that He shows love, it doesn't know where to hide, 
and so it is completely consumed. 

I say that this vision has such tremendous power when the 
Lord desires to show the soul a great part of His grandeur and 
majesty that it would be impossible for any subject to endure 
it — unless the Lord should want to help it very supernaturally 
by placing it in rapture and ecstasy since in the enjoyment of 
that divine presence the vision of it is lost. 

Is it true that it is forgotten afterward? That majesty and beau- 
ty remain so impressed that they are unforgettable, except when 
the Lord wishes the soul to suffer a great dryness and solitude 
of which I shall speak further on; 5 for then it seems it even 
forgets God. The soul undergoes a change; it is always absorbed; 
it seems that a new, living, high degree of love is beginning. 
For although the intellectual vision, of which I spoke, 6 that 
represents God in an imageless way is more perfect, a wonder- 
ful thing happens when so divine a presence is represented in 


St. Teresa of Avila 

the imagination so that in conformity with our weakness this 
presence can last in the memory and keep the thought well oc- 
cupied. These two kinds of vision almost always come together. 
This is the way they occur: with the eyes of the soul we see the 
excellence, beauty, and glory of the most holy humanity; and 
through the intellectual vision, which was mentioned, we are 
given an understanding of how God is powerful, that He can 
do all things, that He commands all and governs all, and that 
His love permeates all things. 

10. This vision is very worthy of esteem and, in my opinion, 
there is no danger in it, because by its effects it is known that 
the devil has no power here. It seems to me he has wanted to 
represent the Lord Himself in this way three or four times by 
a false representation. He takes the form of flesh, but he can't 
counterfeit the image by giving it the glory that it has when it 
comes from God. He makes representations so as to destroy the 
true vision the soul has seen; but the soul of itself resists and 
is agitated, displeased, and disturbed since it loses the devotion 
and delight it had before and remains without any prayer. In 
the beginning this happened, as I said, 7 three or four times. It 
is something so very different that even if one has experienced 
only the prayer of quiet, I believe that one will understand by 
the effects which were mentioned in speaking of locutions. 8 
This false representation is something very obvious; if the soul 
does not want to be deceived, and it walks in humility and 
simplicity, I don't think it will be deceived. Anyone who has had 
a true vision from God can tell the false almost immediately, 
for, although this false vision begins with pleasure and delight, 
the soul hurls it from itself; and even the delight, I think, must 
be different — it doesn't have the appearance of pure and chaste 
love. The devil very quickly shows who he is. So where there 
is experience, the devil, in my opinion, can do no harm. 

1 1 . That this vision from God could be the work of the im- 
agination is the most impossible of impossible things; it is utter 
nonsense to think so, for the beauty and the whiteness of one 
hand alone is completely beyond our imagination. It's impossi- 
ble to see in a moment, without thinking or ever having thought 
about them, things represented that in a long time could not 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 28 


have been put together by the imagination, because they go far 
beyond, as I said, 9 what we can comprehend here on earth. 
And if we could imagine something of the vision, the difference 
could still be seen clearly by this other factor that I shall now 
mention. For if the vision were represented by means of the in- 
tellect, apart from the fact that it wouldn't produce any of the 
great effects that a true one produces, the soul would be left ex- 
hausted. Doing this would be like wanting to make oneself go 
to sleep and yet remaining awake because the sleep doesn't come. 
When people need sleep or feel a weakness in the head and desire 
sleep, they do what they can and at times it seems they are achiev- 
ing something. But if it isn't true sleep that comes to them, they 
will not be sustained nor will they experience in their head a 
renewed feeling of strength; rather, they will feel more exhausted. 
Something similar would happen here; for if the intellect were 
to produce the vision, the soul would be left exhausted — not sus- 
tained and strong, but tired and displeased. One cannot exag- 
gerate the richness that the true vision leaves; it even gives health 
to the body and leaves it comforted. 

12. I gave this reason along with others when they told me 
that the devil was the cause or that I had fancied the vision — 
and this was often — and I made comparisons as I could, and 
the Lord gave me understanding. But all of this proved to be 
of little avail. Since there were very holy persons in this place — 
and compared to them I was a wretched person — and God was 
not leading them by this path, they immediately became fear- 
ful. For it seems that because of my sins, my secrets and con- 
fidences, which they came to know of, were spread around, 
although I spoke to no one about them except to my confessor 
or anyone he told me to tell. 

13.1 told them once that if they were to tell me that a person 
whom I knew very well and with whom I had just finished speak- 
ing were not that person, but that I had imagined it, I would 
without doubt, as they knew, believe what they said rather than 
what I had seen. But if this person were to leave me some jewels, 
and they were left in my hands as tokens of great love, I would 
not believe what they said, even though I desired, because I 
hadn't had any jewels before and was poor, whereas now I found 


St. Teresa of Avila 

that I was rich. I was able to show them these jewels because 
all who knew me saw clearly that my soul was changed, and my 
confessor told me so. The difference in all things was very great; 
it was not feigned, but all could see it very clearly. I said that 
since I was previously so wretched I couldn't believe that if the 
devil did this to deceive me and bring me to hell he would have 
taken a means as contrary as was that of removing vices and 
bestowing virtues and fortitude. For I saw clearly that by these 
experiences I was at once changed. 

14. Insofar as I know, my confessor, as I say — who was a truly 
holy Father from the Society of Jesus — 10 gave this same reply. 
He was very discreet and deeply humble; and this humility that 
was so great brought upon me many trials. For since he was 
a learned and very prayerful man, and the Lord didn't lead him 
by this path, he didn't trust in himself. He suffered many great 
trials in many ways on my account. I knew that they told him 
to be careful of me, that he shouldn't let the devil deceive him 
by anything I told him; they brought up examples to him of other 
persons. All of this made me anxious. I feared that I would have 
no one who would hear my confession, but that all would run 
from me. I did nothing but weep. 

15. By God's providence he wanted to continue to hear my 
confession, for he was such a great servant of God that he would 
have put up with anything for God; so he advised me that I 
shouldn't turn aside from what he told me or fear that he would 
fail me, and that I shouldn't offend God. He always encouraged 
and comforted me. He always ordered me not to hold anything 
from him. I never did. He told me that if I followed this advice 
the devil wouldn't be able to harm me even if the vision did come 
from him, but that rather the Lord would draw good out of the 
evil the devil desired to do my soul. This Father strove for my 
soul's perfection in every way he could. Since I had so much 
fear, I obeyed him in everything, although imperfectly; for on 
account of these trials he suffered a great deal during the three 
years or more that he was my confessor. 11 In the great persecu- 
tions I suffered and in the many bad judgments the Lord al- 
lowed others to make of me — and often without their being at 
fault — everyone came to him, and he was blamed without any 

The Book oj Her Life — Chap. 28 


fault on his part. 

16. It would have been impossible for him to suffer so much 
if he hadn't been so holy and the Lord hadn't encouraged him. 
He had to respond to those who thought I was going astray; and 
they didn't believe him. On the other hand he had to calm me 
and heal the fear I had by putting greater stress on the fear of 
offending God. He also had to assure me; for since in each vision 
there was something new, God permitted that I afterward be 
left with great fears. Everything happened to me because I was 
and had been such a sinner. This Father comforted me with great 
pity. If he would have trusted in himself more, I wouldn't have 
suffered so much; God gave him understanding of the truth in 
all things — the very Sacrament itself enlightened him, I believe. 

17. Those servants of God who were not so sure about me 
conversed with me often. 12 Since I spoke carelessly about some 
things, they interpreted my intention differently and thought that 
what I said, without my being careful, as I say, showed little 
humility. (I loved one of them very much because my soul owed 
him an infinite debt and he was very holy; I felt it infinitely when 
I saw that he didn't understand me; he strongly desired that I 
might advance and that the Lord might give me light.) Upon 
seeing some little fault in me — for they saw many — everything 
else was immediately condemned. They asked me some things; 
I answered plainly and carelessly. At once they supposed that 
I wanted to teach them and that I thought I was wise. It would 
all get back to my confessor, for certainly they desired my good; 
and he would again scold me. 

18. This lasted for a long time, in which I was afflicted on 
all sides, although I was able to bear those trials by means of 
the favors the Lord was granting me. I say this so that it might 
be known what a great trial it is not to have someone who has 
experience of this spiritual path; if the Lord hadn't favored me 
so much, I don't know what would have happened to me. There 
were enough things to drive me insane, and sometimes I found 
myself in such straits that I didn't know what to do other than 
raise my eyes to the Lord. For the opposition of good men to 
a little woman, wretched, weak, and fearful like myself, seems 
to be nothing when described in so few words; yet among the 


St. Teresa of Avila 

very severe trials I suffered in my life, this was one of the most 
severe. Please the Lord that I may have served His Majesty 
somewhat through this trial. For I am very certain that those 
who accused and condemned me were serving Him, and that 
it was all for my greater good. 

Chapter 29 

Continues the topic begun and tells of some great favors the Lord granted 
her and of some things His Majesty told her for her own assurance and 
so that she could answer those who contradicted her. 

I'VE WANDERED FAR from my topic because I was about 
to speak of the signs for discerning that the vision is not pro- 
duced by the imagination. 1 How could we represent in detail 
the humanity of Christ and imagine His great beauty? No little 
time would be required if the image were to look somewhat like 
Him. You could indeed represent Him in your imagination and 
gaze upon Him for some time, and upon His form and whiteness, 
and gradually perfect that image and commit it to memory. Who 
could take away such an image, since the intellect was able to 
fashion it? In the vision we are dealing with there is no possibility 
of fashioning it ourselves, but we must look at what the Lord 
desires to show us, when He desires, and as He desires. There 
is no taking it away or inducing it, nor., however much we try, 
is there any way of doing either; nor when we desire is there 
a way to see it or to stop seeing it. If we want to look at some 
particular thing, the vision of Christ ceases. 

2. For two and a half years God frequently granted me this 
favor. It must be for over three years now that He has continually 
replaced this favor with another more sublime — as I shall perhaps 
afterward explain. 2 And in being aware that He was speaking 
to me and that I was beholding that great beauty and the 
gentleness with which He spoke those words with His most 
beautiful and divine mouth — and at other times beholding His 
severity — and strongly desiring to know the color of His eyes, 
or how tall He was, so that I could be able to describe these 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 29 

things, I never merited to see them. Nor was I able to obtain 
this knowledge; rather, by trying to do so, I would lose the vision 
entirely. Indeed I sometimes see Him looking at me with pity, 
but this kind of vision is so powerful that the soul cannot suffer 
it, and it remains in such a sublime rapture that in order to enjoy 
the beautiful vision more completely it loses it. Hence with respect 
to this vision there is nothing to desire or not to desire. It is clearly 
seen that the Lord desires nothing else than humility and con- 
fusion, and that we accept what is given and praise the one who 
gives it. 

3. This is the case in all visions without exception; our effort 
can neither do nor undo anything when it comes to seeing more 
or seeing less. So that we may be made less capable of pride, 
the Lord desires us to be very clearly aware that this is not our 
work but His Majesty's work. Rather, it makes us humble and 
fearful when we observe that since the Lord takes away our power 
of seeing what we desire to see, He can take from us these favors 
and gifts — and we shall be left with nothing. We should always 
walk in fear as long as we live in this exile. 

4. The Lord almost always showed Himself to me as risen, 
also when He appeared in the Host — except at times when He 
showed me His wounds in order to encourage me when I was 
suffering tribulation. Sometimes He appeared on the cross or 
in the garden, and a few times with the crown of thorns; 
sometimes He also appeared carrying the cross on account, as 
I say, of my needs and those of others. But His body was always 

I suffered numerous affronts and trials in speaking about these 
visions, and very many persecutions. It seemed so certain to them 
that I had a devil that some persons wanted to exorcise me. This 
didn't matter much to me; but I grieved when I saw that my 
confessors were afraid to hear my confession or when I learned 
that others said something to them. Nonetheless, I was never 
able to regret having seen these heavenly visions, and I would 
not exchange even one for all the goods and delights of the world. 
I have always considered a vision a great favor from the Lord. 
It seems to me to be a most rich treasure, and the Lord Himself 
assured me of this many times. I saw that I was increasing very 


St. Teresa of Avila 

much in His love. I went to Him to complain about all these 
trials, and I always came away from prayer consoled and with 
new strength. I didn't dare contradict those who were judging 
my spirit, because I saw that everything would then become 
worse since my doing so would appear to them as a lack of humili- 
ty. I talked with my confessor; he always consoled me greatly 
when he saw that I was troubled. 

5. Since the visions were increasing, one from the group who 
previously helped me- ' for he sometimes heard my confession 
when the ordinary confessor wasn't able to do so — began to say 
that it was clearly the devil. He ordered that, since I didn't have 
the means to resist the visions, I should always bless myself when 
I saw one and make the gesture of scorn called the fig; he was 
certain the devil was the cause and that by my doing this the 
vision wouldn't return. He told me that I shouldn't be afraid, 
that God would protect me and take it away from me. Follow- 
ing this advice was very painful to me. Since I couldn't believe 
but that the vision was from God, it was a terrible thing for me 
to have to do what I was commanded; and neither could I desire, 
as I said, 4 that the vision be taken away. But, finally, I did all 
they ordered me to do. I begged God persistently and with many 
tears that He would free me from deception. And I begged St. 
Peter and St. Paul; for since the first time the Lord appeared 
to me was on their feastday, 5 He told me that they would pro- 
tect me from being deceived. Thus I often saw them very clear- 
ly at my left, although not by an imaginative vision. These 
glorious saints were very much lords of mine. 

6. Making the fig at this vision of the Lord caused me the 
greatest pain. When I saw Him present, I couldn't have believed 
it was the devil if they broke me in pieces; thus it was a kind 
of severe penance for me. So that I would not be forever bless- 
ing myself, I held a cross in my hand. I did this almost all the 
time; I didn't make the fig so continually, because it grieved me 
deeply to do so. I recalled the injuries the Jews caused Him and 
begged Him to pardon me since I was doing it in order to obey 
the one who stood in His place, and not to blame me, since they 
were the ministers that He had placed in His Church. He told 
me not to worry and that I did well in obeying, but that He would 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 29 


make the truth known. When they forbade me to practice prayer, 
it seemed to me He was annoyed. He told me to tell them that 
now what they were doing was tyranny. He gave me signs for 
knowing that the vision was not from the devil. I shall mention 
some afterward. 6 

7. Once while I was holding the cross in my hand, for I had 
it on a rosary, He took it from me with His own hands; when 
He gave it back to me, it was made of four large stones incom- 
parably more precious than diamonds — there is no appropriate 
comparison for supernatural things. A diamond seems to be 
something counterfeit and imperfect when compared with the 
precious stones that are seen there. The representation of the 
five wounds was of very delicate workmanship. He told me that 
from then on I would see the cross in that way; and so it hap- 
pened, for I didn't see the wood from which it was made but 
these stones. No one, however, saw this except me. 

When I began to try to obey the command to reject and resist 
these favors, there was a much greater increase in them. In seek- 
ing to distract myself, I never got free from prayer. It even 
seemed to me that I was in prayer while sleeping. There was 
an increase of love and of the loving complaints I was address- 
ing to the Lord; the pain became unbearable, nor was it in my 
power to stop thinking of Him no matter how much I tried and 
even though I wanted to. Nonetheless, I obeyed when I could; 
but in this matter I was able to do little or nothing at all, and 
the Lord never took prayer from me. But even though He told 
me to do what they said, He assured me on the other hand and 
taught me what I should say to them — and so He does now. He 
gave me so many adequate reasons that these reasons made me 
feel completely secure. 

8. After a short time His Majesty began as He had promised 
me 7 to give further indication that it was He by increasing the 
love of God in me to such a degree that I didn't know where 
it came from (for it was very supernatural); nor did I procure 
it. I saw that I was dying with desire to see God, and I didn't 
know where to seek this life except in death. Some great impulses 
of this love came upon me in such a way that, even though they 
were not as unbearable as those I already mentioned before 8 or 


St. Teresa of Avila 

of such value, I didn't know what to do with myself. For nothing 
satisfied me, nor could I put up with myself; it truly seemed as 
if my soul were being wrested from me. O superb contrivance 
of my Lord! What delicate skill \bu use with Your miserable slave! 
You hide Yourself from me and afflict me with \bur love through 
a death so delightful that the soul would never want to escape 
from it. 

9. It's impossible for anyone who has not experienced them 
to be able to understand these impulses, which are so vehement. 
For they are not a disquiet of the heart. Neither are they the 
certain devotional feelings that often occur and seem to suffocate 
the spirit because they can't be contained. These devotional feel- 
ings belong to a lower form of prayer and their impetuous stir- 
rings should be avoided by trying gently to gather them within 
oneself and by quieting the soul. This condition is like that of 
children crying so furiously that it seems they are about to be 
suffocated; their excessive feelings cease when they are given 
something to drink. So it is here. Reason should bridle these 
feelings because they could be caused by our own natural 
weakness. We should consider with fear that they are not total- 
ly perfect but can pertain in great part to the sensory portion 
of the soul. And let this child become quiet by a loving caress 
which moves it to love, by gentle means and not by blows, as 
they say. Let this love be held within and not resemble the pot 
that heats up too fast and boils over because too much wood 
was put on the fire. They should moderate the causes of the in- 
crease of this fire and strive to put it out with gentle and not 
arduous tears; for such are the tears that come from these feel- 
ings, and these tears do much harm. I myself sometimes ex- 
perienced them in the beginning, and they left my head so ex- 
hausted and my spirit so tired that for another day or more I 
was unfit to return to prayer. Hence great discretion is necessary 
in the beginning so that everything may proceed gently and the 
spirit may be shown how to work interiorly. One should strive 
earnestly to avoid exterior feelings. 

10. These other impulses are far different. We ourselves don't 
put the wood on the fire, but it seems that once the fire is going 
we are suddenly thrown into it so as to be burned up. The soul 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 29 


doesn't strive for the pain of this wound caused by the Lord's 
absence, but at times an arrow is thrust into the deepest and 
most living recesses of the heart in such a way that the soul doesn't 
know what has happened or what it wants. It well understands 
that it wants God and that the arrow seems to have been dipped 
in a poisonous herb so that for the love of this Lord it might 
despise itself; and it would gladly lose its life for Him. You can't 
exaggerate or describe the way in which God wounds the soul 
and the extreme pain this wound produces, for it causes the soul 
to forget itself. Yet this pain is so delightful that there is no other 
pleasure in life that gives greater happiness. The soul would 
always want, as I said, 9 to be dying of this sickness. 

11. This pain and glory joined together left me confused; I 
couldn't understand how such a combination was possible. Oh, 
what it is to see a wounded soul! I say that this reality should 
be understood in such a way that the soul is said to be wounded 
for a very sublime reason and there be clear awareness that the 
soul did not cause this love, but that seemingly a spark from 
the very great love the Lord has for it suddenly fell upon it, mak- 
ing it burn all over. Oh, how many times when I am in this 
state do I recall that verse of David; Quemadmodum desiderat cervus 
adfontes aquarum\ w for it seems to me that I experience it literal- 
ly within myself. 

12. When this thirst is not too severe, it seems it can be ap- 
peased somewhat; at least the soul seeks some remedy — for it 
doesn't know what to do — through certain penances, but they 
are no more felt and cause no more pain than would the shed- 
ding of blood from a dead body. It seeks ways and means of 
doing something about the love of God it feels. But this pain 
of love is so great that I don't know what bodily torment would 
take it away. Since the remedy doesn't lie in bodily penances, 
these penances make very poor medicine for so sublime a 
sickness. They can relieve it somewhat, and the soul can get along 
in this way while at the same time begging God to provide a 
cure for its sickness. But it sees no remedy other than death, 
for it thinks that by means of death it can enjoy its Good com- 
pletely. At other times the pain becomes so severe that the soul 
can do neither penance nor anything else, for the whole body 


St. Teresa of Avila 

is paralyzed. One is unable to stir with either the feet or the arms. 
Rather, if one is standing, one sits down, like a person being 
carried from one place to another, unable even to breathe. The 
soul lets out some sighs — not great ones — because it can do no 
more; they are felt within. 

13. The Lord wanted me while in this state to see sometimes 
the following vision: I saw close to me toward my left side an 
angel in bodily form. I don't usually see angels in bodily form 
except on rare occasions; although many times angels appear 
to me, but without my seeing them, as in the intellectual vision 
I spoke about before. 11 This time, though, the Lord desired 
that I see the vision in the following way: the angel was not large 
but small; he was very beautiful, and his face was so aflame that 
he seemed to be one of those very sublime angels that appear 
to be all afire. They must belong to those they call the cherubim, 
for they didn't tell me their names. But I see clearly that in heaven 
there is so much difference between some angels and others and 
between these latter and still others that I wouldn't know how 
to explain it. I saw in his hands a large golden dart and at the 
end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed 
to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart 
and that it reached deep within me. When he drew it out, I 
thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; 
and he left me all on fire with great love of God. The pain was 
so great that it made me moan, and the sweetness this greatest 
pain caused me was so superabundant that there is no desire 
capable of taking it away; nor is the soul content with less than 
God. The pain is not bodily but spiritual, although the body 
doesn't fail to share in some of it, and even a great deal. The 
loving exchange that takes place between the soul and God is 
so sweet that I beg Him in His goodness to give a taste of this 
love to anyone who thinks I am lying. 

14. On the days this lasted I went about as though stupefied. 
I desired neither to see nor to speak, but to clasp my suffering 
close to me, for to me it was greater glory than all creation. 

Sometimes it happened — when the Lord desired — that these 
raptures were so great that even though I was among people 
I couldn't resist them; to my deep affliction they began to be 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 30 


made public. After I experience them I don't feel this suffering 
so strongly; rather I experience what I mentioned before in that 
other part — I don't recall which chapter — 12 which is very dif- 
ferent in many respects and more valuable. But when this pain 
I'm now speaking of begins, it seems the Lord carries the soul 
away and places it in ecstasy; thus there is no room for pain 
or suffering, because joy soon enters in. 

May He be blessed forever who grants so many favors to one 
who responds so poorly to gifts as great as these. 

Chapter 30 

Returns to the account of her life and tells how the Lord removed many 
of her trials by bringing to the city in which she lived the saintly Friar 
Peter of Alcantara, of the order of the glorious St. Francis. Discusses the 
great temptations and interior trials she sometimes underwent. 

AWARE THEN OF THE LITTLE, or nothing at all, I 
could do to avoid these impulses, which were so great, I 
also feared having them; I didn't understand how suffering and 
happiness could go together. Bodily suffering and spiritual hap- 
piness I already knew were truly possible; but such excessive 
spiritual pain with such very great joy — this bewildered me. 

I still didn't stop trying to resist, but I could do so little that 
sometimes it tired me. I protected myself with the cross and 
wanted to defend myself with the means by which the Lord pro- 
tected all of us. I saw that no one understood me; I knew this 
very clearly. But I didn't dare mention it except to my confessor, 
for to have done so would have amounted to saying truly and 
clearly that I wasn't humble. 

2. The Lord was pleased to remove a great part of my trial — 
and then all of it — by bringing to this city the blessed Friar Peter 
of Alcantara, whom I already mentioned; and I said something 
about his penance. 1 Among other things, it was verified for me 
that for twenty years he continually wore a hairshirt made of 
tin plate. He is the author of some small books in the vernacular 
on prayer that are now popular, for as one who practiced it well 


St. Teresa of Avila 

himself he wrote in a very helpful way for those who are given 
to prayer. 2 He observed the first rule of the blessed St. Fran- 
cis in all its rigor besides the other things mentioned to some 
extent above. 

3. Well, that widow, the servant of God and friend of mine 
whom I mentioned, 3 knew that so great a man was here; and 
she knew also of my need. She was a witness to my afflictions, 
and she comforted me greatly because her faith was so strong 
that she couldn't but believe that what all the others attributed 
to the devil was from the Spirit of God. Since she is a very in- 
telligent and trustworthy person to whom the Lord has granted 
much favor in prayer, His Majesty desired to enlighten her in 
matters about which the learned men were ignorant. My con- 
fessors gave me permission to confide some things to her, for 
there were many reasons for trusting her. Sometimes the Lord 
shared with her the favors He granted me together with counsel 
very profitable for her soul. 

Once she knew that this saintly man was in the city, without 
saying anything to me, she obtained permission from my pro- 
vincial that I stay at her house for eight days so that I might 
be able to talk with him more easily. Both in her home and in 
some of the churches I spoke with him frequently during this 
first time he was here; afterward at various times I conversed 
with him a great deal. I gave him a summary account of my 
life and manner of proceeding in prayer as clearly as I knew how. 
I always tried to speak with complete clarity and truthfulness 
to those with whom I conversed about my soul. I desired that 
they know even about any first stirrings, and I accused myself 
of matter that was doubtful and questionable with arguments 
against myself. Thus without any duplicity or covering over I 
discussed my soul with him. 

4. Almost from the outset I saw that he understood me through 
experience, which was all that I needed. For at that time I didn't 
understand myself or how to describe my experiences as I do 
now (for afterward God enabled me to understand and describe 
the favors that His Majesty granted me), and it was necessary 
that the one who understood me and explained these experiences 
to me should himself have experienced them. Friar Peter great- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 30 


ly enlightened me; I couldn't understand that such an experience 
was possible, at least as regards the visions that were not im- 
aginative. It seemed to me that I didn't understand either how 
those I saw with the eyes of my soul were possible. As I have 
said, 4 only those that were seen with the bodily eyes seemed to 
me to merit attention, and I didn't experience these. 

5. This holy man enlightened me about everything and ex- 
plained it to me, and he told me not to be grieved but that I 
should praise God and be so certain that all was from His Spirit 
that with the exception of the faith nothing could for me be truer 
or more believable. He was much consoled along with me and 
showed me every kind regard and favor, and ever afterward he 
was very solicitous for me and shared with me his own concerns 
and business matters. Since he saw that I had desires for what 
he possessed in deed — for the Lord gave me these in a very 
definite way — and saw that I had so much courage, he was glad 
to talk to me. For anyone the Lord brings to this state finds no 
pleasure or consolation equal to that of meeting someone to whom 
they think the Lord has begun to grant these desires. I couldn't 
then have had many more, in my opinion, and please God I 
may have them now. 

6. He took the greatest pity on me. He told me that one of 
the worst trials on earth was the one I had suffered (which is 
contradiction on the part of good men), and that I had still a 
long way to go; for I was always in need and there was no one 
in this city who understood me. But he said that he would speak 
to my confessor and to the one who troubled me the most, for 
that was this married gentleman whom I've already mentioned. 
As the one who felt the greatest good- will toward me, this gentle- 
man waged the whole opposition. He is a God-fearing and holy 
man; but since he had seen that I had so recently been so 
wretched, he wasn't able to feel assured. Thus the holy Friar 
Peter assured them, for he spoke to both of them and gave them 
motives and reasons for feeling safe and not disturbing me any 
more. My confessor had need of little assurance; the gentleman 
needed so much that the reasons were still not entirely enough, 
but they helped to keep him from frightening me so much. 1 ' 

7. We agreed that from then on I would write to him about 


St. Teresa of Avila 

what happened to me and that we would pray a good deal for 
each other. For such was his humility that he esteemed the 
prayers of this miserable one — which brought much embarrass- 
ment to me. He left me with the greatest consolation and happi- 
ness and the ability to feel secure in my prayer and not doubt 
that it was from God; he told me that if I had some doubt about 
anything, for the sake of greater security, I should make it known 
to my confessor, and that in this way I would live safely. 

But I wasn't able to feel this assurance completely, because 
the Lord led me by the way of fear, in which I believed an ex- 
perience was from the devil when they told me it was. Thus no 
one could make me so feel either fear or assurance that I could 
give my experiences more credence than that which the Lord 
placed in my soul. Hence even though Friar Peter consoled and 
calmed me, I didn't give his words such credence as to be total- 
ly without fear, especially when the Lord left me in the trials 
of soul of which I shall now speak. Nevertheless, I remained, 
as I say, very consoled. I couldn't give enough thanks to God 
and to my glorious father St. Joseph, for it seemed to me that 
since Friar Peter was the general of the commissariat, it was St. 
Joseph who brought him here; for the commissariat is under the 
guardianship of St. Joseph, 6 to whom I prayed very much, as 
I did also to our Lady. 

8. It sometimes happened to me — and even now it does, 
although not so much — that I had such very bitter trials of soul 
together with severe bodily torments, pains, and sicknesses that 
I wasn't able to help myself. At other times I had more serious 
bodily illnesses; yet, since I didn't have the sufferings of soul, 
I suffered them with great gladness. But when they were all joined 
together the trial was so severe that it afflicted me very much. 
All the favors the Lord had granted me were forgotten. There 
only remained the memory so as to cause pain; they were like 
a dream. For the intellect became so stupefied that it made me 
walk in the midst of a thousand doubts and suspicions making 
it seem that I had not understood and that perhaps I had fancied 
the visions and that it was enough that I was deceived without 
my in turn deceiving good people. It seemed to me I was so evil 
that all the wickedness and heresies that had arisen were due 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 30 


to my sins. 

9. This was a false humility the devil invented in order to dis- 
quiet me and try, if he could, to bring my soul to despair. I have 
so much experience now of when something is from the devil 
that since he at present sees that I understand him, he doesn't 
torment me in this way as often as he used to. He is recognized 
clearly by the disturbance and disquiet with which he begins, 
by the agitation the soul feels as long as his work lasts, by the 
darkness and affliction he places in the soul, and by dryness and 
the disinclination toward prayer or toward any good work. It 
seems that he smothers the soul and binds up the body so that 
it profits from nothing. Even though the soul knows its own 
wretchedness and grieves to see what we are, and even though 
we have exaggerated thoughts about our wickedness, as exag- 
gerated as those mentioned, 7 and these are genuinely felt, true 
humility doesn't come to the soul with agitation or disturbance, 
nor does it darken it or bring it dryness. Rather, true humility 
consoles and acts in a completely opposite way: quietly, gently, 
and with light. From another point of view, this pain gives the 
soul comfort in that the soul sees what a great favor the Lord 
grants it through the experience of that pain and how well 
employed it is. It grieves for its offenses against God; yet, on 
the other hand, His mercy lifts its spirits. It has the light to be 
confounded about itself, and it praises God for having put up 
with it so long. In that other humility caused by the devil, there 
is no light for anything good; it seems God lays everything to 
waste with fire and sword. The devil represents justice to the 
soul, and although it has faith that there is mercy — because he 
can't do so much as to make it lose its faith — it receives no con- 
solation from this faith; rather, when it beholds so much mercy, 
this knowledge contributes to its torment because it supposes 
it was obliged to do more. 

10. This is one of the most painful, subtle, and beguiling in- 
ventions of the devil that I have known. Thus I should like to 
warn your Reverence so that if he should tempt you in this way 
you may have some light and recognize it — if he allows the in- 
tellect to recognize it. Don't think it's a question of learning or 
knowing, for although everything fails me at this time, after- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

ward, when I am freed from them, I know clearly that the feel- 
ings are foolish. What I've understood is that the Lord desires 
and permits this and gives the devil license to tempt us as He 
did when the devil tempted Job, 8 although in my case — since 
I'm so wretched — not so severely. 

11. This experience happened to me, and I remember that 
it happened on the day before the vigil of Corpus Christi, a feast 
for which I have much devotion, although not as much as I 
should. That time it lasted only until the feastday, for at other 
times the experience lasts for eight or fifteen days, or even three 
weeks — I don't know if any lasted longer. It comes especially 
during Holy Week when prayer is my delight. What happens 
is that my intellect is suddenly seized by things sometimes so 
trivial that at other times I would laugh about them. The devil 
makes the soul upset in every way he wants and shackles it there 
without its being master of itself or able to think of anything 
else than the absurdities he represents to it; they have almost 
no importance, neither do they bind nor do they loose. He only 
binds the soul so as to oppress it in such a way as to make it 
feel uneasy. So it happened to me that it seemed the devils were 
playing ball with my soul and that it was unable to free itself 
from their power. What it suffers at this time is indescribable. 
It seeks out relief, but God doesn't permit it to find any; there 
only remains the light of reason, which precedes the use of free 
will, but this light is not clear. I mean that the eyes are almost 
covered. It's like the case of those who have often gone by a cer- 
tain path and, although it is night and dark outside, know where 
they may stumble because of a previously acquired feel for this 
way and because they have seen it during the daytime, and they 
watch out for that danger. So it is with respect to not offending 
God, for it seems the soul moves by habit. Let us leave aside 
the fact that the Lord holds it in His hands, which is what matters. 

12. Faith is then deadened and put to sleep as are all the other 
virtues — although not lost. The soul truly believes what the 
Church holds, but this is pronounced vocally; it seems that on 
the other hand it is afflicted and made numb so that it seeming- 
ly knows God almost as it does something it hears far in the 
distance. Love becomes so lukewarm that if it hears someone 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 30 


speaking about God it listens as though the truth about Him 
were something it believes to be what it is because the Church 
does, but there is no memory of what it has experienced within 
itself. Going to prayer or remaining in solitude means nothing 
else but more anguish, for the torment it feels within itself, 
without knowing why, is unbearable. In my opinion the ex- 
perience is a kind of copy of hell. This is so, according to what 
the Lord made known to me in a vision; for the soul burns within 
itself without knowing who started the fire or where it comes 
from or how to flee from it or what to put it out with. Should 
it want to remedy the situation by reading, it would feel as though 
it didn't know how to read. Once it happened that I started to 
read a life of a saint to see if it would absorb me, and to console 
myself by what he suffered; after reading a number of lines four 
or five times, I understood less from them than I did at the begin- 
ning, and so I stopped. This happened to me often, although 
I recall this instance more particularly. 

13. To carry on a conversation with anyone is worse, for the 
devil gives a spirit of anger so displeasing that it seems as if I 
want to eat everyone up, without being able to help it; or it would 
seem to me an accomplishment if one could control one's temper; 
or the Lord does so by keeping in His hands the soul that is in 
such a condition lest it say or do anything against its neighbors 
that might hurt them and offend God. 

Well, with regard to going to my confessor, it is certain that 
what I am about to say happened many times. Although the 
confessors I dealt with and am dealing with at this time are very 
holy, they spoke harshly and scolded me; afterward when I told 
them, they themselves were surprised and told me that to refrain 
from doing so was not in their power. They tried hard not to 
do it again, for afterward they felt sorry and even scrupulous 
about having done this. But when I had similar trials of body 
and soul and they were determined to comfort me with com- 
passion, they were unable to do so. They didn't say any evil 
words — I mean that would offend God — but said the most 
unpleasant allowable in a confessor. They must have meant to 
mortify me; and although at other times I was glad and ready 
to suffer such mortification, during the time of this experience 


St. Teresa of Avila 

everything was a torment to me. 

I also got the feeling that I was deceiving them, and I went 
to them and warned them very earnestly to be careful of me since 
I could deceive them . I saw clearly that I wouldn't do it deliberate- 
ly nor would I lie to them, but everything made me afraid. One 
of them once told me, q since he understood the temptation, not 
to feel grieved, that, even if I wanted to deceive him, he had 
the intelligence not to let himself be deceived. This gave me great 

14. Sometimes (or almost ordinarily — at least, quite often) 
after receiving Communion I was at peace. And sometimes in 
approaching the Sacrament I felt at once so good in soul and 
body that I was surprised. It seems that in only a moment all 
the darknesses of the soul disperse; and once the sun is out, the 
soul recognizes the foolishness in which it was held. At other 
times, by one word the Lord spoke to me. Only by His saying, 
"Don't grow weary, don't be afraid," as I've already mentioned 
elsewhere, 10 I was left completely cured; or by seeing some 
vision, as though I had not suffered anything. I delighted in God; 
I complained to Him for consenting that I should suffer so many 
torments. But this suffering was well repaid, for almost always 
the favors afterward came in great abundance. I only think that 
the soul comes out of the crucible like gold, more refined and 
purified, so as to see the Lord within itself. So afterward these 
trials that seemed unbearable become small, and one wants to 
return to suffering if the Lord will be more served by it. And 
even though there may be more tribulations and persecutions, 
if they are undergone without offending the Lord but in being 
happy to suffer them for Him, everything will be for a greater 
gain — although I don't bear them as they should be borne, but 
quite imperfectly. 

15. At other times the experience is of another sort. It hap- 
pens that all of a sudden, I believe, there is taken away the 
possibility of my thinking any good thing or wanting to do it, 
and the body and soul feel completely useless and weighed down. 
I don't have those other temptations and worries, but a 
displeasure, without understanding why; nor does anything give 
satisfaction to my soul. I tried to perform good exterior works 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 30 


so as to occupy myself half by force — I well know the little a 
soul amounts to when grace is hidden. It wasn't very painful, 
because this sight of my lowliness gave me some satisfaction. 

16. At other times I find that I can't even form in a fitting 
way a thought about God or of any good, or practice prayer, 
even though I'm in solitude; but I feel that I know Him. I under- 
stand that it is the intellect and imagination that does me harm 
here, for the will is all right it seems to me and disposed toward 
every good. But this intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to 
be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down; 11 
nor am I master of it long enough to keep it calm for the space 
of a Creed. Sometimes I laugh at myself and know my misery, 
and I look at this madman and leave it alone to see what it does; 
and — glory to God — it surprisingly enough never turns to evil 
but to indifferent things: to whether there is anything to do here 
or there or over yonder. I then know better the tremendous favor 
the Lord grants me when He holds this madman bound in perfect 
contemplation. I wonder what would happen if the persons who 
think I'm so good were to see this delirium. I greatly pity the 
soul to see it in such bad company. I want to see it free, and 
so I say to the Lord: "When, my God, will I finally see my soul 
joined together in Your praise, so that all its faculties may en- 
joy You? Do not permit, Lord, that it be broken any longer in 
pieces, for it only seems that each piece goes its own way." 

I often undergo this scattering of the faculties; sometimes I 
understand clearly that my lack of physical health has much to 
do with it. I frequently recall the harm original sin did to us; 
this is the source, I think, of our being incapable of enjoying 
so much good in an integral way. And my own sins must be 
a cause; if I hadn't committed so many, I would be more in- 
tegrated in good. 

17. I also suffered another great trial. Since it seemed that 
I understood all the books I read that treat of prayer and that 
the Lord had already given me such favors, I thought I had no 
need of these books and so did not read them but read only lives 
of the saints. Since I felt so lacking in the ways they served God, 
reading about them seemed to benefit and encourage me. I 
thought it showed very little humility to think that I had attained 


St. Teresa of Avila 

these favors of prayer, and since I couldn't bring myself to think 
otherwise, it grieved me very much until learned men and the 
blessed Friar Peter of Alcantara told me not to worry about it. 
I see clearly that I haven't begun to serve God — although His 
Majesty grants me favors as He does to many good people — 
and that I am imperfection incarnate, except in desires and in 
loving; in these latter I see clearly that the Lord has favored me 
so that I might serve Him in something. It really seems to me 
that I love Him, but my works and the many imperfections I 
see in myself sadden me. 

18. At other times there comes a foolishness of soul — that's 
what I call it — for it seems to me that I do neither good nor evil, 
but follow the crowd, as they say. I do so neither in pain nor I 
in glory, nor does it give life or death, or please or weigh me 
down. It doesn't seem that the soul feels anything. I think it goes 
about like a little donkey that's grazing; it is nourished because 
they give it to eat, and it eats almost without perceiving that 
it does so. The soul in this state must not remain without 
nourishing itself on some great favors from God. For in a life 
so miserable it doesn't regret living, and it endures life with 
equanimity; but it feels no movements or effects by which it might 
understand itself. 

19. It seems to me now the soul is as though sailing with a 
very calm wind, for one travels far without understanding how. 
In those other kinds of favors the effects are so pronounced that 
the soul almost immediately sees its improvement; for then the 
desires are restless and the soul never succeeds in being satisfied. 
This is the experience of those to whom God gives the great im- 
pulses of love I mentioned. 12 These impulses are like some lit- 
tle springs I've seen flowing; they never cease to move the sand 
upward. This is a good example of, or comparison to, souls that 
reach this state: love is always stirring and thinking about what 
it will do. It cannot contain itself, just as that water doesn't seem 
to fit in the earth; but the earth casts it out of itself. So is the 
soul very habitually, for by reason of the love it has it doesn't 
rest in or contain itself. It is already soaked in this water; it would 
want others to drink, since it has no lack of water, so that they 
might help it praise God. Oh, how many times do I recall the 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 30 


living water that the Lord told the Samaritan woman about! And 
so I am very fond of that gospel passage. Thus it is, indeed, that 
from the time I was a little child, without understanding this 
good as I do now, I often begged the Lord to give me the water. 
I always carried with me a painting of this episode of the Lord 
at the well, with the words, inscribed: Domine, da mihi aquam. l] 

20. This love also seems like a huge fire that always needs 
something to burn so as not to go out. Thus in the case of the 
souls I'm speaking of, even were it to cost them a great deal, 
they would want to carry wood so that this fire might not be 
extinguished. I am the kind who is made happy even with pieces 
of straw I can throw on it; and this I do sometimes — or many 
times. On occasion I laugh at myself, and at other times I grow 
weary. An interior stirring incites me to some service — I'm not 
capable of any more: arranging branches and flowers before holy 
images, sweeping, or putting a chapel in order, doing such lowly 
little things that it embarrasses me. If I performed some penance, 
it all amounted to little and was of such a kind that, were it not 
for the fact that the Lord accepted my desire, I saw that it had 
no importance — and I myself made fun of myself. Well, souls 
to whom God through His goodness gives abundantly this fire 
of His love suffer no small trial in lacking bodily strength to do 
something for Him. It is truly a great suffering. Since the soul 
lacks the strength to throw some wood on this fire and is dying 
lest the fire go out, I think that within itself it is being consumed 
and turned to ashes and dissolved in tears and burnt up; this 
is a terrible torment, although it is a delightful one. 

21. Let the soul who has reached this state praise the Lord, 
because He has given it the bodily strength to do penance, or 
the learning, talents, and freedom to preach and confess and 
bring souls to God. For such a soul doesn't know or understand 
the blessing it has unless it has experienced a taste of what it 
is to be unable to do anything in the service of the Lord, and 
yet always receive a great deal. May He be blessed for everything, 
and may the angels give Him glory, amen. 

22. I don't know if I'm doing well in writing about so many 
details. Since your Reverence again sent me orders not to worry 
about enlarging this and not to omit anything, I'm dealing clearly 


St. Teresa of Avila 

and truthfully with what I remember. And I can't help but leave 
a lot out, because otherwise I would be wasting much more 
time — and I have so little as I said — 14 and perhaps would not 
put down anything worthwhile. 

Chapter 31 

Deals with some exterior temptations and representations of the devil and 
the torments he inflicted on her. Treats also of some matters very beneficial 
for advising persons who journey on the path of perfection. 

NOW THAT I'VE MENTIONED some interior, secret 
temptations and disturbances the devil caused me, 1 I 
want to tell about others he caused almost publicly and in which 
one could not be mistaken that he was the source. 

2. I was once in an oratory, and he appeared to me in an abom- 
inable form at my left side. Because he spoke to me, I looked 
particularly at his mouth — which was frightening. It seemed that 
a great flame, all bright without shadow, came forth from his 
body . He told me in a terrifying way that I had really freed myself 
from his hands but that he would catch me with them again. 
I was struck with great fear and blessed myself as best I could; 
he disappeared, but returned right away. This happened to me 
twice. I didn't know what to do. There was some holy water there, 
and I threw it in that direction; he never returned again. 

3. Another time I was tormented for five hours with such terri- 
ble interior and exterior pains and disturbance that it didn't seem 
to me I could suffer them any longer. The Sisters who were with 
me were frightened and didn't know what to do, nor did I know 
how to help myself. When bodily pains and sickness become in- 
tolerable I have the custom of making interior acts of supplica- 
tion to the Lord as best I can, that if His Majesty be served by 
my doing so He might give me patience and I might remain 
in this state until the end of the world. Well, since I was suffer- 
ing so severely this time, I was helping myself through these acts 
and resolutions so as to be able to bear it. The Lord wanted me 
to understand it was the devil because I saw beside me a black, 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 31 


very abominable little creature, snarling like one in despair that 
where he had tried to gain he had lost. When I saw him I laughed 
to myself and was not afraid. There were some Sisters there with 
me who were unable to help nor did they know of any remedy 
for so much torment; without being able to resist, I was strik- 
ing myself hard on the body, head, and arms. What was worse 
was the interior disturbance, for I wasn't able to feel calm of 
any sort. I didn't dare ask for holy water lest I frighten them 
and they come to understand what the trouble was. 

4. I often experience that there is nothing the devils flee from 
more — without returning — than holy water. They also flee from 
the cross, but they return. The power of holy water must be great. 
For me there is a particular and very noticeable consolation my 
soul experiences upon taking it. Without a doubt my soul feels 
ordinarily a refreshment I wouldn't know how to explain, like 
an interior delight that comforts it entirely. This isn't some fancy 
or something that has happened to me only once, but something 
that has happened often and that I've observed carefully. Let 
us say the relief is like that coming to a person, very hot and 
thirsty, on drinking ajar of cold water; it seems the refreshment 
is felt all over. I consider everything ordained by the Church 
to be important, and I rejoice to see the power of those words 
recited over the water so that its difference from unblessed water 
becomes so great. 

5. Well, since the torment didn't stop, I said: "If you wouldn't 
laugh, I'd ask for holy water." They brought it to me and 
sprinkled some on me, but it didn't help. I threw some toward 
where the devil was, and instantly he went away and all the illness 
left me as if it were taken away by hand, except that I remained 
weary as though I had been badly beaten with a stick. It did 
me a lot of good to reflect upon what he will do to the soul he 
possesses as his own if even when the soul and body don't belong 
to him, he causes so much harm — when the Lord permits. It 
made me again eager to be freed from such dreadful company. 

6. Another time, not long ago, the same thing happened to 
me; although it didn't last as long, and I was alone. I called for 
holy water, and those who entered after the devil had already 
gone (for they were two nuns well worthy of belief, who would 


St. Teresa of Avila 

by no means tell a lie) smelled a foul stench like that of brimstone. 
I didn't smell it. It so lingered that one could notice it. 

Another time I was in the choir, and there came upon me 
a strong impulse toward recollection. I left the choir so that the 
others wouldn't notice, although all of them heard the striking 
of loud blows near the place where I was; I heard some coarse 
words next to me as though the devils were plotting something, 
although I didn't understand what. But I was so absorbed in 
prayer I didn't understand anything nor did I have any fear. 
It happened, almost every time, when the Lord granted me the 
favor of persuading some soul to advance in perfection. 

7. It is certain that what I shall now tell happened to me. (And 
there are many witnesses to this, especially the one who is now 
my confessor 2 since he saw it written in a letter; without my 
telling him who the person was to whom the letter belonged, 
he knew very well who it was.) 

A person came to me who had been in mortal sin for two and 
a half years. It was one of the most abominable I've heard of, 
and in all this time he hadn't confessed or made amends; and 
he was saying Mass. Although he was confessing other sins, of 
this one he asked how he could confess something so ugly. He 
had a great desire to give it up, but he wasn't able to help himself. 
He made me feel great pity, and my seeing that he offended 
God in such a way caused me deep sorrow. I promised him I 
would beg God very much to liberate him and that I would get 
others better than myself to do the same, and I wrote to him 
through a certain person he told me I could give the letters to. 
And so it happened that after receiving the first letter he went 
to confession. For God desired (through the many very holy 
persons to whose prayers I recommended him) to grant this soul 
that mercy; and I, although miserable, did what I could with 
great care. He wrote to me that he was so much better that for 
days he had not fallen into the sin, but that the torment the temp- 
tation gave him was so intense it seemed from what he suffered 
he was in hell; he asked me to commend him to God. I in turn 
recommended him to my Sisters through whose prayers the Lord 
must have granted me this favor, for they took the matter very 
much to heart. No one could guess who the person was. I begged 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 31 


His Majesty to mitigate those torments and temptations and that 
those devils would come to afflict me, provided that I would not 
offend the Lord in anything. As a result, for a month I suffered 
severe torments; it was during this time that these two things 
I mentioned happened. 3 

8. The Lord was pleased that they leave him; this he wrote 
to me, for I told him what I was going through during that 
month. His soul was fortified, and .he was left completely free. 
He didn't have enough of thanking God and me — as though I 
had done anything. But the reputation I had from the fact that 
the Lord granted me favors benefited him. He said that when 
he found himself very distressed he read my letters, and the temp- 
tation left him. He was very impressed by what I had suffered 
and how he had been freed. Even I was amazed, and I would 
have suffered many more years to see that soul free. May the 
Lord be praised for everything, for the prayer of those who serve 
Him (as I believe do these Sisters in this house) 4 can do much. 
But since I sought these prayers, the devils must have been more 
angry with me; and the Lord on account of my sins permitted 

9. Also one night during this time I thought they were chok- 
ing me; after much holy water had been sprinkled around, I saw 
a great multitude of them go by, as though they were being 
thrown down a precipice. There are so many times that these 
cursed creatures torment me, and so little is the fear I now have 
of them, seeing that they cannot stir unless the Lord allows them, 
that I would tire your Reverence and tire myself if I told about 
all these instances. 

10. May what was said be of help that the true servant of God 
might pay no attention to the scarecrows the devils set up in order 
to cause fear. We should know that each time we pay no atten- 
tion to them they are weakened, and the soul gains much more 
mastery. Some great benefit always remains, which I won't go 
into so as not to enlarge. I shall only mention what happened 
to me on the night of All Souls: while I was in the oratory after 
having recited a nocturn and while saying some very devotional 
prayers that come at the end, a devil appeared on the book so 
that I couldn't finish the prayer. I blessed myself, and he went 


St. Teresa of Avila 

away. When I began again to recite the prayers, he returned. 
I believe it was three times I began, and until I threw holy water 
at him I couldn't finish. I saw that some souls left purgatory at 
that instant; little must have been lacking to their freedom, and 
I wondered if he had aimed at preventing this. 

A few times I've seen him in physical form, but many times 
with no physical form — as for instance in the vision mentioned 
above' in which without seeing any form one knows he is 

1 1 . I also want to tell the following because it frightened me 
a lot: one day on the feast of the Trinity, being in the choir of 
a certain monastery and in rapture, I saw a great battle of devils 
against angels. I couldn't understand what that vision meant. 
In less than fifteen days it became easily understandable on 
account of a certain conflict that arose between people of prayer 
and many who were not, and a lot of harm was done in the house 
in which it took place. It was a battle that lasted a long time 
and caused much disquiet. 

At other times I saw a large multitude of devils around me, 
and it seemed that a great brightness encircled me, and this 
prevented them from reaching me. I understood that God was 
watching over me so that they could not get to me in order to 
make me offend Him. From what I sometimes saw in myself, 
I understood that it was a true vision. The fact is that now I 
have understood so well the little bit of power he has, provided 
I'm not against God, that I have almost no fear. The powers 
of devils are nothing if these devils do not find souls cowardly 
and surrendered to them; it is with such souls that they show 
their power. Sometimes, in the temptations I already mention- 
ed, () it seemed to me that all the vanities and weaknesses of the 
past were again awakening within me; I had really to commend 
myself to God. At once the torment came of thinking that since 
those thoughts arose in me the favors I experienced must all be 
from the devil. It seemed to me that there shouldn't have been 
even the first stirrings of a bad thought in one who was receiv- 
ing so many favors from the Lord. But then my confessor put 
me at peace. 

12. At other times I was severely tormented — and even now 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 31 


I'm tormented by it — upon seeing that I was esteemed, especially 
by eminent persons, and that they spoke very well of me. From 
this esteem I've suffered and do suffer a great deal. I then look 
at the life of Christ and of the saints, and it seems to me I'm 
going in the opposite direction since they didn't advance except 
through contempt and insults. It makes me walk in fear and as 
one who doesn't dare raise her head or want to be seen. This 
I don't do when I'm experiencing persecutions; then the soul 
walks with head held high, although the body feels them and, 
from another perspective, I am afflicted; but I don't know how 
this can be. Yet so it happens, for it then seems that the soul 
is in its kingdom and puts everything under its feet. 

Sometimes I experienced the following temptation, which 
lasted for many days; it seemed to be virtue and humility on 
the one hand, but now I see plainly it was a temptation (a 
Dominican friar, a very learned man, 7 explained it to me clear- 
ly): when I thought these favors the Lord grants me would 
become known publicly, the torment was so excessive that my 
soul was deeply disturbed. The disturbance reached the point 
that, in reflecting upon it, it seemed to me I was more willing 
to be buried alive than have these favors made known publicly. 
So when these experiences of recollection or rapture began, which 
I couldn't resist even in public, I was left so ashamed afterward 
that I didn't want to be where anyone would see me. 

13. Once when I was very worried about this, the Lord asked 
me why I feared since only two things could happen from it; 
they would either criticize me or praise Him. And He explained 
that those who believed in the experience would praise Him and 
that those who did not would condemn me, without fault; that 
either outcome would be advantageous to me, and that I shouldn't 
be anxious. This calmed me a great deal and consoles me when 
I recall it. The temptation reached the point that I wanted to 
leave that place and transfer my dowry to another monastery 
much more enclosed than the one I lived in, for I had heard 
it praised highly. It also belongs to my order ; a and it was very 
far from here, which is what would have consoled me: to be some 
place where they wouldn't know me. But my confessor never 
allowed me to leave. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

14. These fears took away to a great extent my freedom of 
spirit; afterward I came to understand that they didn't come from 
genuine humility, since they disturbed me so much. And the 
Lord taught me this truth: that I should be determined and 
certain that His favor was not some good thing belonging to me 
but that it belonged to God; that just as I wasn't sorry to hear 
other persons praised (rather I was very happy and consoled to 
see that God revealed Himself in them), I should neither be sorry 
that His works be shown in me. 

15.1 also went to another extreme. I begged God — and I had 
a special prayer — that, when it appeared to others there was some 
good in me, His Majesty would make known to them my sins 
so that they might see how these favors were bestowed without 
any merit on my part. I always desire a great deal that my lack 
of merit be known. My confessor advised against this special 
prayer. But until very recently, if I saw that a person thought 
highly of me, in roundabout ways, or as I could, I got them to 
know of my sins; in this way it seems I found relief. My con- 
fessor also disapproved of this latter way of acting and made me 
scrupulous about it. 

16. Such feelings derived, in my opinion, not from humility 
but from a temptation. It seemed to me I was deceiving everyone. 
And although it is true that they were being deceived in think- 
ing there was some good in me, it was not my desire to deceive 
them, nor did I ever have such an aim; but the Lord permits 
such things for some reason. So even with my confessors, if I 
saw it wasn't necessary I didn't discuss anything, for doing so 
would have made me very scrupulous. 

I understand now that all these little fears and pains and this 
appearance of humility came from serious imperfection and from 
not being mortified. For a soul surrendered into God's hands 
doesn't care whether they say good or evil about it. It thoroughly 
understands — since the Lord desires to grant it the favor of 
understanding this — that of itself it has nothing. Let it trust in 
Him who bestows the favor, for He will know why He makes 
the favor known; and let it be prepared for persecution, which 
in these our times will certainly come whenever the Lord desires 
that it be known He grants these kinds of favors to a certain 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 31 


person. There are a thousand eyes ready to turn on a soul receiv- 
ing such favors, but on a thousand souls of another kind there's 
not even one eye ready to turn. 

17. Truthfully, there is no small reason for fear, but this must 
have been my own fear — not humility but pusillanimity. A soul 
that God permits to advance in this way before the eyes of the 
world can well prepare itself for martyrdom at the hands of this 
world; because if it doesn't want to die to the world, the world 
will itself put it to death. I really don't see anything in the world 
that pleases me other than its intolerance of faults in the good, 
forcing them to be perfect through its criticisms. If someone is 
not perfect, I say that more courage is necessary to follow the 
path to perfection than to suffer a quick martyrdom. For perfec- 
tion is not attained quickly, unless the Lord wants to grant some- 
one this favor by a special privilege. Seeing the soul begin, the 
world wants it to be perfect, and at a thousand leagues distance 
it thinks something is a fault which perhaps is a virtue; the one 
who condemns the action uses that same action as a vice, and 
thereby judges others. These souls must not have the means to 
eat or sleep or even, as they say, to breathe; and the more they 
are esteemed the more they must forget they are still in the body, 
no matter how perfect the soul is. They still live on earth sub- 
ject to their miseries, however much they may have trampled 
them under foot. So, as I say, great courage is necessary because 
the poor soul has not begun to walk, and they want it to be fly- 
ing; it still hasn't conquered its passions, and they want it to be 
as strong in great occasions of sin as they read the saints were 
after being confirmed in grace. 

What it undergoes in this situation is something to praise 
the Lord for, and it also excites the heart to great pity; for many 
souls turn back since the poor things don't know how to help 
themselves. And I believe mine would have turned back, if the 
Lord hadn't so mercifully done everything; for your Reverence 
will see that there was no other ability in me than to fall and rise. 

18. I'd like to know how to speak of this condition because 
I believe many souls who want to fly before God gives them wings 
are deceived in this matter. (I believe I have already used this 
comparison, 9 but it applies well here.) I'll discuss this because 


St. Teresa of Avila 

I see some souls very afflicted for this reason. Since they are 
beginning with great desires, fervor, and determination to make 
progress in virtue — and some for His sake abandon everything 
as far as externals are concerned — and since in other persons 
who have grown much more in perfection they see highly vir- 
tuous actions granted by the Lord, and unobtainable by 
ourselves, and see in all the books written on prayer and con- 
templation the things we must do in order to mount up to this 
dignity, and since they cannot immediately bring this about in 
themselves, they become dejected. These virtuous actions would 
be, for example: not caring at all if others speak badly of us but 
rather being happier than when they speak well; little esteem 
for honor; a detachment from relatives so that if these relatives 
don't practice prayer one wouldn't desire to speak with them but 
would rather grow tired of doing so; and many other things of 
this kind which in my opinion God must give these souls. For 
I think these virtues are already supernatural goods, or against 
our natural inclination. Let not these souls become anxious, let 
them hope in the Lord; through their prayer and their doing 
what they can, His Majesty will bring it about that what they 
now have in desires they shall possess in deed. It is very necessary 
for this weak nature of ours to have great confidence and not 
grow faint-hearted or start thinking that even if we make efforts 
we shall still fail to gain the victory. 

19. And since I have a lot of experience of this, I shall say 
something for the sake of informing your Reverence. 10 Don't 
think, even though it may seem so to you, that virtue has already 
been gained if it hasn't been tried by its contrary. We must always 
be mistrustful of ourselves and never grow negligent as long as 
we live. For many things immediately cling to us if, as I say, 
the grace to know what everything is, is not yet given to us com- 
pletely; in this life there is never anything that hasn't many 
dangers. It seemed to me a few years ago not only that I was 
detached from my relatives but that they bored me; so I felt cer- 
tain that I couldn't bear their conversation. A very important 
business matter came about and 1 had to stay with my sister 
whom I previously loved very much. 11 But in conversation with 
her, even though she is better than I, I didn't feel any affinity. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 31 


Since, being married, she is in a different state of life, the con- 
versation couldn't always be what I'd have wanted, and as much 
as possible I remained alone. Yet I saw that her troubles grieved 
and worried me more than would those of a neighbor. In the 
end, I understood I wasn't as free as I thought and that I still 
had to flee the occasion so that this virtue that the Lord had begun 
to give would grow; thus with His favor I strove to do so ever 
after this. 

20. When the Lord begins to give a virtue, it should be highly 
esteemed; and we should in no way place ourselves in the danger 
of losing it. This is true in matters concerning our honor and 
in many others. Your Reverence should believe that not all those 
of us who think we are detached, are in fact; it is necessary not 
to grow careless in this matter. Let any person who wants to 
advance and yet feels concerned about some point of honor 
believe me and strive to overcome this attachment, which is like 
a chain that cannot be broken by any file but only by God 
through our prayer and earnest cooperation. It seems to me that 
such attachment is a shackle on this road — I am astonished at 
the harm it does. 

I see some persons holy in their works, who perform such 
mighty ones that the people marvel. May God help me! Why 
is this soul still on earth? Why isn't it at the summit of perfec- 
tion? What is this? Who detains the one who has done so much 
for God? Oh, what does a point of honor have . . . ! And the worst 
that it has is that it doesn't have anyone to understand what it 
has. The reason is that the devil sometimes makes the soul think 
it is obliged to receive honor. 

21 . W T ell, let them believe me (believe for the love of the Lord 
this little ant, for He wants it to speak); if they don't remove 
this caterpillar, even though it doesn't damage the tree complete- 
ly, since some other virtues will remain, all the virtues will be 
worm-eaten. The tree isn't a beautiful one, nor does it flourish, 
nor does it even allow the others that are near it to flourish. The 
fruit of good example that it gives is not healthy; it will last only 
a short while. I often say that however small the point of honor 
may be, the concern for it is like that of sound coming from an 
organ when the timing or measure is off; all the music becomes 


St. Teresa of Avila 

dissonant. This concern is something that does damage to the 
soul in all areas, but in this path of prayer it is a pestilence. 

22. We are striving to be joined with God through union, and 
we seek to follow His counsels coming from Christ, who was 
weighed down by injuries and testimonies against Him, and we 
desire our honor and credit to remain intact? It's not possible 
to reach this union, for we aren't taking the same road. The Lord 
comes to the soul if we make the effort and strive to give up our 
rights in many matters. Some will say: "I have no occasion to 
practice this detachment from my rights, nor does any come 
along." I believe that the Lord will not want anyone with the 
determination to practice this detachment to lose so much good. 
His Majesty will ordain so many things by which the soul can 
gain this virtue that it will not want so many. All hands to the 

23. I want to mention the trivial and insignificant things I 
did when I began — or some of them: little straws I mentioned 12 
that I put on the fire, for I'm not capable of anything more. The 
Lord receives all; may He be blessed forever. 

Among my faults I had this one: Because of pure negligence 
and involvement in other vanities, I knew little about the Office 
in choir and what had to be done there; but I saw other novices 
who could teach me. It occurred to me not to ask them so that 
they wouldn't find out that I knew so little, and I wouldn't thereby 
give them bad example. Such an attitude is very common. But 
once God opened my eyes a little, even though I knew, when 
there was the smallest doubt, I asked the youngest religious. I 
lost neither honor nor credit; rather the Lord, in my opinion, 
gave me a better memory afterward. 

I didn't know how to sing well. I was so worried when I hadn't 
studied what they had entrusted to me (not because I wanted 
to avoid committing a fault before the Lord, since being bothered 
about that would have been virtuous, but because of the many 
that were listening to me), that just out of a sheer cult of honor 
I was so disturbed that I said much less than I knew. I afterward 
took it upon myself, when I didn't know the assignment very 
well, simply to say so. I felt this very much in the beginning, 
but afterward I enjoyed it. And it happened that when I began 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 31 


not to care if they learned I didn't know that I recited much better, 
and in the effort to get rid of the accursed honor, I came to know 
how to do what I considered an honor, which, incidentally, each 
one understands in his own way. 

24. By means of these trifles, which are nothing — and a com- 
plete nothing am I, since this pained me — little by little one makes 
progress in deeds. And His Majesty gives value to little things 
like these that are done for Him, and He gives the help for do- 
ing greater things. So, with respect to humility it occurred to 
me, upon seeing that all were advancing except myself— for I 
was never good for anything — to gather up all their mantles when 
they left the choir. It seemed to me I was serving those angels 
that were praising God there. I did this until — I don't know 
how — they came to know about it. This caused me no little em- 
barrassment because my virtue hadn't reached the point of desir- 
ing that they know these things; and this wasn't out of humility 
but lest they laugh at me, since these things were such trifles. 

25. O my Lord! What a shame it is to see so much wickedness 
and to tell about some grains of sand, which even then I didn't 
lift from the ground for Your service, since everything I did was 
enveloped in a thousand miseries! The waters of Your grace 
didn't flow yet under these grains of sand in order to raise them 
up. O my Creator! Who could find among so many evils 
something of substance to relate, since I am telling about the 
great favors I've received from You! So it is, my Lord, that I 
don't know how my heart can bear it or how anyone who reads 
this can fail to abhor me in observing that such marvelous favors 
were so poorly repaid and that I have no shame, in the end, 
to recount these services as my own. Yes, I am ashamed, my 
Lord; but having nothing else to tell about the part I played 
makes me speak of such lowly beginnings so that anyone who 
did great things in the beginning may have hope; since it seems 
the Lord has taken my early actions into account, He will do 
so more with theirs. May it please His Majesty to give me grace 
so that I might not always remain at the beginning, amen. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Chapter 32 

Discusses how the Lord desired to put her spirit in a place in hell she 
had deserved because of her sins. Gives a brief account of what was shown 
her there. Begins to deal with the way in which the monastery of St. Joseph, 
where she now is, was founded. 

ALONG TIME AFTER THE LORD had already granted 
me many of the favors I've mentioned 1 and other very 
lofty ones, while I was in prayer one day, I suddenly found that, 
without knowing how, I had seemingly been put in hell. I 
understood that the Lord wanted me to see the place the devils 
had prepared there for me and which I merited because of my 
sins. This experience took place within the shortest space of time, 
but even were I to live for many years I think it would be im- 
possible for me to forget it. The entrance it seems to me was 
similar to a very long and narrow alleyway, like an oven, low 
and dark and confined; the floor seemed to me to consist of dirty, 
muddy water emitting a foul stench and swarming with putrid 
vermin. At the end of the alleyway a hole that looked like a small 
cupboard was hollowed out in the wall; there I found I was placed 
in a cramped condition. All of this was delightful to see in com- 
parison with what I felt there. What I have described can hard- 
ly be exaggerated. 

2. What I felt, it seems to me, cannot even begin to be exag- 
gerated; nor can it be understood. I experienced a fire in the 
soul that I don't know how I could describe. The bodily pains 
were so unbearable that though I had suffered excruciating ones 
in this life and according to what doctors say, the worst that can 
be suffered on earth (for all my nerves were shrunken when I 
was paralyzed, 2 plus many other sufferings of many kinds that 
I endured, and even some, as I said, 3 caused by the devil), 
these were all nothing in comparison with the ones I experienced 
there. I saw furthermore that they would go on without end and 
without ever ceasing. This, however, was nothing next to the 
soul's agonizing: a constriction, a suffocation, an affliction so 
keenly felt and with such a despairing and tormenting unhap- 
piness that I don't know how to word it strongly enough. To 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 32 


say the experience is as though the soul were continually being 
wrested from the body would be insufficient, for it would make 
you think somebody else is taking away the life, whereas here 
it is the soul itself that tears itself in pieces. The fact is that I 
don't know how to give a sufficiently powerful description of that 
interior fire and that despair, coming in addition to such ex- 
treme torments and pains. I didn't see who inflicted them on 
me, but, as it seemed to me, I felt myself burning and crumbl- 
ing; and I repeat the worst was that interior fire and despair. 

3. Being in such an unwholesome place, so unable to hope 
for any consolation, I found it impossible either to sit down or 
to lie down, nor was there any room, even though they put me 
in this kind of hole made in the wall. Those walls, which were 
terrifying to see, closed in on themselves and suffocated 
everything. There was no light, but all was enveloped in the 
blackest darkness. I don't understand how this could be, that 
everything painful to see was visible. 

The Lord didn't want me to see any more of hell at that time. 
Afterward I saw another vision of frightful things, the punish- 
ment of some vices. With respect to the sight they seemed much 
more frightening, but since I didn't feel the pain, they didn't cause 
me so much fear. For in the former vision the Lord wanted me 
actually to feel those spiritual torments and afflictions, as though 
the body were suffering. I don't know how such an experience 
was possible, but I well understood that it was a great favor and 
that the Lord desired me to see with my own eyes the place His 
mercy had freed me from. It amounts to nothing to hear these 
pains spoken of, nor have I at other times thought about dif- 
ferent torments (although not many, since my soul did not fare 
well with such fearful thoughts; that is, that devils tear off the 
flesh with pincers, or other various tortures I've read about) that 
are anything in comparison to this pain; it is something different. 
In sum, as a resemblance to the reality, being burned here on 
earth is very little when compared to being burned by the fire 
thai is there. 

4. I was left terrified, and still am now in writing about this 
almost six years later, and it seems to me that on account of 
the fear my natural heat fails me right here and now. Thus I recall 


St. Teresa of Avila 

no time of trial or suffering in which it doesn't seem to me that 
everything that can be suffered here on earth is nothing; so I 
think in a way we complain without reason. Hence I repeat that 
this experience was one of the greatest favors the Lord granted 
me because it helped me very much to lose fear of the tribula- 
tions and contradictions of this life as well as to grow strong 
enough to suffer them and give thanks to the Lord who freed 
me, as it now appears to me, from such everlasting and terrible 

5. Since that time, as I say, everything seems to me easy when 
compared to undergoing for a moment what I suffered there in 
hell. I marvel how after having often read books in which the 
pains of hell were somewhat explained I didn't fear them or take 
them for what they were. Where was I? How could I find relax- 
ation in anything when I was causing myself to go to such an 
evil place? May You be blessed, my God, forever! How obvious 
it is that You loved me much more than I did myself! How many 
times, my Lord, have You freed me from so dark a prison, and 
how often have I put myself in it again against Your will! 

6. From this experience also flow the great impulses to help 
souls and the extraordinary pain that is caused me by the many 
that are condemned (especially the Lutherans, for they were 
through baptism members of the Church). It seems certain to 
me that in order to free one alone from such appalling torments 
I would suffer many deaths very willingly. I notice that if we 
see a person, whom in a special way we love here below, with 
a great trial or suffering, it seems that our own very nature in- 
vites us to compassion; and if their trial is great, we ourselves 
become distressed. Well, who is there who can suffer seeing a 
soul in the supreme trial of trials that has no end? No heart can 
bear it without great pain. For if here on earth in knowing that 
finally life will end and that it has its limit, we are still moved 
to so much compassion, I don't know how we can rest in regard 
to the other endless life when we see how the devil brings so many 
souls each day with himself to hell. 

7. This awareness also makes me desire that in a matter so 
important we don't grow satisfied with anything less than doing 
all we can on our part; let us neglect nothing, and may it please 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 32 


the Lord that He be served by giving us the grace to do all we 
can. I sometimes reflect that even though I was terribly wicked, 
I had some concern about serving God, that I didn't do certain 
things I see are done in the world as if they amount to nothing, 
and, finally, that I suffered great illnesses and with a lot of 
patience, which the Lord gave me, yet wasn't inclined to criticize 
or speak evil of anyone — nor does it seem to me I could have 
wished evil on anyone. Neither was I covetous, nor do I ever 
recall being envious in such way that it would have been a grave 
offense against the Lord; and there are some other things — for 
even though I was so wretched, I usually had the fear of God. 
Yet, in spite of all this, I see the place the devils had already 
prepared for me. Indeed, on account of my faults, it seems to 
me I still merited greater punishment. But, nonetheless, I say 
that it was a terrible torment and that it is a dangerous thing 
to be satisfied with ourselves, nor should the soul that falls at 
every step into mortal sin be at rest or content. But for the love 
of God we should avoid the occasions; the Lord will help us, 
as He did me. May it please His Majesty not to let me out of 
His hand lest I fall again, for I have already seen where I would 
end up. May the Lord not allow it because of who His Majesty 
is, amen. 

8. After having seen this and other things and secrets that the 
Lord, because of who He is, desired to show me about the glory 
He will give to the good and the suffering that will go to the 
evil, I was anxious to know the manner and way in which I could 
do penance for so much evil and merit something in order to 
gain so much good. I was desiring to flee people and withdraw 
completely from the world. My spirit was not at rest, yet the 
disquiet was not a disturbing but a delightful one. It was ob- 
vious that it was from God and that His Majesty had given the 
soul heat so as to digest other heavier foods than those it was 

9. I was thinking about what I could do for God, and I thought 
that the first thing was to follow the call to the religious life, which 
His Majesty had given me, by keeping my rule as perfectly as 
I could. Even though there were many servants of God in the 
house where I was, and He was very well served in it, the nuns 


St. Teresa of Avila 

because of great necessity often went out to places where they 
could stay — with the decorum proper to religious. Also, the rule 
was not kept in its prime rigor, but was observed the way it was 
in the whole order, that is, according to the bull of mitigation. 4 
There were also other disadvantages; it seemed to me the 
monastery had a lot of comfort since it was a large and pleasant 
one. But this disadvantage of going out, even though I was one 
who did so a great deal, was now a serious one for me because 
some persons to whom the superiors couldn't say "no" liked to 
have me in their company; and when urged, the superiors 
ordered me to go. So, by reason of their commands I wasn't able 
to remain in the monastery much. The devil must have helped 
partly to keep me from staying home; for since I was sharing 
with some of the nuns what those with whom I was consulting 
were teaching me, much good was being done. 

10. It happened once while I was with someone that she 
mentioned to me and to the others in the group that if we couldn't 
be nuns like the discalced, it would still be possible to found a 
monastery. 5 Since I was having these desires, I began to 
discuss the matter with that lady companion of mine, 6 the 
widow I mentioned, who had the same desires. She began to 
draw up plans to provide the new house with income. Now I 
see that there was little chance these plans would succeed, but 
our desire made us think they would. Yet since, on the other 
hand, I was so perfectly content in the house in which I was 7 
because it was very much to my liking and the cell in which I 
lived was just what I wanted, I was still delaying. Nevertheless, 
we agreed to pray fervently to God over the matter. 

1 1 . One day after Communion, His Majesty earnestly com- 
manded me to strive for this new monastery with all my powers, 
and He made great promises that it would be founded and that 
He would be highly served in it. He said it should be called St. 
Joseph and that this saint would keep watch over us at one door, 
and our Lady at the other, that Christ would remain with us, 
and that it would be a star shining with great splendor. He said 
that even though religious orders were mitigated one shouldn't 
think He was little served in them; He asked what would become 
of the world if it were not for religious and said that I should 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 32 


tell my confessor" whar He commanded, that He was asking 
him not to go against this or hinder me from doing it. 

12. This vision had such great effects, and this locution the 
Lord granted was of such a nature, that I couldn't doubt it was 
from God. I felt the severest pain because on the one hand the 
terrible disturbances and trials the new monastery would cost 
me were partly represented to me, and on the other hand I was 
very happy in my own monastery. Although I had been discuss- 
ing it before, I hadn't done so with as much determination or 
certitude as was necessary to bring it about. These words seemed 
to compel me, and since I saw I would be starting something 
that would disturb my calm, I was doubtful about what to do. 
But often the Lord returned to speak to me about this new 
monastery, presenting me with so many clear reasons and 
arguments that I saw it was His will, and I could no longer help 
but tell my confessor. I told him in writing all that happened. 9 

13. He didn't dare tell me definitely to forget about the new 
monastery; but he was aware that it wasn't feasible from the view- 
point of natural reason since my companion who was the one 
who would have had to provide for the foundation had little or 
almost no possible means for it. He told me to discuss it with 
my superior and to do what the superior advised. I didn't discuss 
these visions with the superior, but that lady who wanted to found 
this monastery spoke with him. The provincial 10 assented very 
readily, for he is fond of all religious life, and he gave all the 
necessary support and told her that he would accept that house 
under his jurisdiction. They discussed the income it would have 
to have, and for many reasons we never desired that it would 
have more than thirteen nuns. 11 

Before we began to discuss it, we wrote to the holy friar Peter 
of Alcantara about everything that was happening. He counseled 
us not to fail to make the foundation, and he gave us his opinion 
about it all. 

14. Hardly had the knowledge of it begun to spread throughout 
the city when the great persecution that cannot be briefly de- 
scribed came upon us: gossip, derision, saying that it was foolish- 
ness. As for me, they said I was well off in my own monastery; 
with regard to my companion, there was so much persecution 


St. Teresa of Avila 

that she became very upset. I didn't know what to do; it seemed 
to me they were partly right. While thus very wearied and recom- 
mending myself to God, His Majesty began to console and en- 
courage me. He told me that in this I would see what the saints 
who had founded religious orders had suffered, that I would have 
to suffer much more persecution than I could imagine, and that 
we shouldn't let it bother us. He told me some things to tell my 
companion, and, what I marvelled at most, we were immediately 
consoled about what happened and were left with the courage 
to withstand all. Indeed, among people of prayer and, in fact, 
throughout the whole city there was hardly a person who was 
not then against us; the project seemed to almost everyone to 
be a lot of nonsense. 

15. There was so much talk and such an outcry in my own 
monastery that the provincial thought it would be imprudent 
to go against all; so he changed his mind and didn't want to ac- 
cept the foundation under his jurisdiction. He said the income 
was not secure, that it was small, and that there was strong op- 
position; and, all things considered, it seems he was right. Finally, 
he abandoned the project and refused to accept it. For us who, 
it seemed, had already received the first blows, the refusal was 
most painful; especially in my case, it was painful to see the pro- 
vincial opposed to it; had he accepted it, I'd have been excused 
by all. As for my companion, they didn't want to give her 
absolution unless she gave up the idea, because they said she 
was obliged to remove the scandal. 

16. She went to a most learned man, a very great servant of 
God of the order of St. Dominic, to tell him about it and give 
him an account of everything. 12 She did this even before the 
provincial had withdrawn his permission, for in the entire place 
there was no one who wanted to give us an opinion; and thus 
it was said to be just one of our own whims. This lady told the 
holy man about everything and of the income she had from her 
estate. She had a strong desire that he would help us because 
he was the most learned man in the city at that time and there 
were few in his order more learned than he. I told him all we 
were thinking of doing and some of the reasons. I didn't say 
anything about any revelation but mentioned only the natural 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 32 


reasons that urged me, for I didn't want him to give any opinion 
other than one in reply to these reasons. He told us to give him 
a period of eight days to answer and asked if we were determined 
to do what he would tell us. I told him we were. But even though 
I told him this and it seems to me I would have done so (although 
at that time I didn't see any other way of going forward with 
the project), never did the assurance leave me that the founda- 
tion would be made. My companion had more faith; she never 
for anything they said to her decided to abandon it. 

17. Yet, as I say, I thought it would be impossible to give up 
the project. I believed that since it didn't go against Sacred 
Scripture or against the laws of the Church, which we are obliged 
to keep, the revelation was true. Although the undertaking really 
seemed to me to be from God, if that learned man had told me 
we couldn't do it without offending God and that we were doing 
something against the demands of a good conscience, I think 
I would have immediately given it up or sought another means. 
But the Lord didn't give me any other than this one. 

This servant of God told me afterward that he had taken it 
upon himself and was fully determined to insist that we give up 
the foundation, for he had already heard news about the public 
outcry; also it seemed to him as it did to everyone to be foolish. 
And he went on that when a certain gentleman had learned we 
had gone to him, that gentleman informed him to be careful and 
not help us. But then when he began to consider how he would 
answer us and to think about the matter and our intention and 
our plan of religious life, he felt assured it would be very much 
in the service of God and that we shouldn't fail to go ahead with 
it. So he answered us that we should hurry to bring the project 
to a conclusion, and he mentioned the manner and way in which 
it should be done. He said that although the estate was small, 
one had to trust in God about something, that anyone who would 
oppose the plan should come to him and that he would answer; 
in this way he always helped us, as I shall say afterward. 13 

18. We were very consoled by his reply. On account of his 
help some holy persons who were usually opposed to us were 
more satisfied; and some helped us. Among them was the holy 
gentleman 14 whom I already mentioned, who because he real- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

ly was holy and it seemed to him that our plan bore promise 
of great perfection, since our whole basis for wanting to carry 
it out was prayer — although the means seemed to him very dif- 
ficult and impractical — he gave his opinion that it could be 
something from God. It seemed the Lord Himself moved him 
to this. And the Lord did the same to the Master, who is the 
cleric, 15 the servant of God I mentioned I had spoken to before, 
and who is an example to the entire city. He is a person whom 
God keeps there as a help and advantage for many souls, and 
now he agreed to help me in the project. Being at this juncture, 
always having the help of many prayers, and having already 
bought the house in a good section, I didn't worry about it be- 
ing small. The Lord had told me to get started as best I could, 
that afterward I would see what His Majesty would do. 16 And 
how well I have seen it! Thus, though I knew the income was 
small, I believed the Lord would help us and arrange things 
through other means. 

Chapter 33 

Continues on the same subject, about the foundation dedicated to the glorious 
St. Joseph. Tells how she was ordered not to become involved with the 
project, of the time she abandoned it, of some trials she had, and of how 
the Lord consoled her. 

reached this state and were at such a point that in another 
day the deeds were to be drawn up and the matter concluded, 
our Father Provincial changed his mind. 1 I believe this was 
providential, as it appeared to be afterward. Since the prayers 
were so many, the Lord was perfecting the work and ordaining 
that it be done in another way. Because my provincial didn't 
want to receive the house under his jurisdiction, my confessor 2 
ordered me not to be involved with the foundation any more — 
although the Lord knows the great trials and afflictions it had 
cost me to bring the project to that state. Even though my pro- 
vincial had ordered me to do what I had done thus far, the con- 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 33 


viction became greater that it was all the foolishness of women — 
and the criticism of me increased — when the endeavor was aban- 
doned in this way. 

2. I was very much disliked throughout my monastery 5 
because I had wanted to found a more enclosed monastery. They 
said I was insulting them; that in my own monastery I could 
also serve God since there were others in it better than I; that 
I had no love for the house; that it would be better to procure 
income for this place than for some other. Several of them said 
I should be thrown into the prison cell; 4 others — very few — 
defended me somewhat. I saw clearly that in many matters my 
opponents were right, and sometimes I gave them explanations. 
Yet since I couldn't mention the main factor, which was that 
the Lord had commanded me to do this, I didn't know how to 
act; so I remained silent about the other things. God granted 
me the very great favor that none of all this disturbed me; rather, 
I gave up the plan with as much ease and contentment as I would 
have if it hadn't cost me anything. No one could believe this, 
not even the very persons of prayer who knew me. They thought 
I was very afflicted and ashamed; even my own confessor couldn't 
believe it. As for myself, since it seemed to me I had done 
everything I could, I thought I wasn't obliged to do what the 
Lord had commanded me; and I remained in the house, for I 
was very satisfied and pleased there. Although I could never stop 
believing that the foundation would come about, I no longer saw 
the means, nor did I know how or when; but I was very certain 
that it would. 

3. What caused me great anguish was something my confessor 
once wrote to me. It was as though I had done something against 
his will. (The Lord also must have desired that in that area which 
would be most painful to me I wouldn't be lacking a trial.) So 
in the midst of this multitude of persecutions, when I thought 
comfort would be coming from him, he wrote me that I should 
now be able to see from what had happened that the project had 
been all a dream, that I should make amends from then on by 
not desiring to go out for anything or to speak any more about 
it, since I had seen the scandal that had occurred; and he men- 
tioned other things, all of them giving me pain. What he said 


St. Teresa of Avila 

grieved me more than everything else put together, since it 
seemed to me that if I had been an occasion or had been at fault 
for some offense against God, and that if these visions had been 
an illusion, all the prayer I had experienced was self-deception, 
and that I was being misled and going astray. This made me 
so extremely distressed I was thrown into complete confusion 
and severely afflicted. But the Lord, who never failed me, who 
in all these trials I enumerated often consoled and fortified me — 
there is no reason to mention it all specifically here — then told 
me not to be anxious; that I had served God a great deal and 
had not offended Him in that project; that I should do what my 
confessor ordered me to do by being silent for the present, until 
it would come time to return to the task. I was left so consoled 
and happy that the persecution hanging over me seemed to be 
all nothing. 

4. In this way the Lord taught me what a tremendous good 
it is to suffer trials and persecutions for Him. For the increase 
of love of God I saw in my soul and many other things reached 
such a point that I was amazed; and this makes me unable to 
stop desiring trials. The other persons thought I was very 
ashamed; and yes, I would have been if the Lord hadn't favored 
me to such an extreme with so marvelous a gift. Then the im- 
pulses of love of God that I mentioned 5 began to grow in in- 
tensity, and the raptures became greater, although I remained 
silent and didn't mention these gains. The holy Dominican 
friar b still thought it certain, as I did, that the foundation 
would be made. Since I didn't want to get involved in it so as 
not to go against obedience to my confessor, he conferred about 
the matter with my companion; and they wrote to Rome to start 
negotiating for it. 

5. Likewise the devil began striving here through one person 
and another to make known that I had received some revela- 
tion about this work. Some persons came to me with great fear 
to tell me we were in trouble and that it could happen that others 
might accuse me of something and report me to the Inquisitors. 
This amused me and made me laugh, for I never had any fear 
of such a possibility. If anyone were to see that I went against 
the slightest ceremony of the Church in a matter of faith, I myself 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 33 


knew well that I would die a thousand deaths for the faith or 
for any truth of Sacred Scripture. And I said they shouldn't be 
afraid about these possible accusations; that it would be pretty 
bad for my soul if there were something in it of the sort that 
I should have to fear the Inquisition; that I thought that if I did 
have something to fear I'd go myself to seek out the Inquisitors; 
and that if I were accused, the Lord would free me, and I would 
be the one to gain. I discussed this with my Dominican Father 
who, as I say, was so learned I was able to feel fully assured 
with what he told me. I told him then as clearly as I could about 
all the visions and my manner of prayer and the great favors 
the Lord granted me. I begged him to consider my prayer very 
carefully and tell me if there was something opposed to Sacred 
Scripture and what he felt about it all. He assured me very much, 
and, in my opinion, it benefited him. For although he was very 
good, from then on he dedicated himself much more to prayer 
and withdrew to a monastery of his order where there was much 
solitude so that he could practice prayer better. 7 He remained 
there more than two years, but then obedience drew him out — 
which he felt keenly — since, on account of the kind of person 
he was, they needed him. 

6. To a certain extent, because of the great loss this was to 
me, I felt it very much when he went away, although I didn't 
try to prevent him. But I understood what he gained; for when 
I was very troubled about his leaving, the Lord told me I should 
be consoled and not troubled, that he was being well guided. 
His soul improved so much in that place, and he made such 
spiritual progress, that he told me, when he came back, that he 
wouldn't have given up going there for anything in the world. 
And I, too, was able to agree because previously he assured me 
and consoled me only by his learning, but now he did so also 
through his spiritual experience, for he was receiving a number 
of supernatural experiences. And God brought him at the time 
that His Majesty saw there was need for help in the work of 
founding this monastery which His Majesty desired. 

7. Well, for five or six months I remained in this silence, not 
becoming involved in or speaking of this matter, and the Lord 
never commanded me to do so. I didn't understand why, but 


St. Teresa of Avila 

I couldn't get it out of my mind that the foundation would be 
accomplished. At the end of this period, when the rector of the 
house of the Society of Jesus was transferred, His Majesty 
brought here another very spiritual one who had great courage 
and understanding and a good background in studies, 8 and at 
a time when I was in dire need. For since he who was my con- 
fessor had a superior, and members of the Society have this virtue 
to the extreme that they will not stir unless what they do is in 
conformity with their superior's will, he didn't dare, for suffi- 
cient reasons that he had, come to a decision about some things, 
although he understood my spirit well and desired that it make 
much progress. And now my spirit was moving with such great 
impulses of love that it felt very keenly its bondage; nevertheless, 
it didn't venture beyond what he commanded me. 

8. One day, while I was greatly troubled with the thought that 
my confessor didn't believe me, the Lord told me not to be 
anxious, that that affliction would soon end. I rejoiced deeply, 
thinking His words meant I was soon to die; and I became very 
happy when I thought about it. Afterward, I saw clearly they 
referred to the arrival of this rector I mentioned because the 
occasion for that pain never presented itself again. The new rector 
didn't restrain my confessor, but rather told him to console me; 
that there was no reason for fear, and not to lead me by so con- 
fining a path; that he should let the spirit of the Lord work, for 
at times it seemed with these great spiritual impulses that my 
soul couldn't even breathe. 

9. This new rector came to see me. My confessor ordered me 
to speak to him in all freedom and clarity. I usually felt the 
greatest aversion toward speaking about myself. Thus it hap- 
pened that when I entered the confessional, I felt in my spirit 
I don't know what that I never recall having felt with anyone, 
neither before nor afterward; nor would I be able to describe 
what this experience was, or draw any comparisons. For it was 
a spiritual joy and understanding within my soul that his soul 
would understand mine and that mine would be in harmony 
with his; although, as I say, I don't know how such an experience 
was possible. For if I had spoken with him or had heard en- 
thusiastic reports about him, it wouldn't have been a great thing 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 33 


to experience joy in knowing he would understand me. But he 
hadn't spoken one word to me, nor I any to him, nor was he 
anyone of whom I had any previous knowledge. Afterward I 
saw that my spirit was not deceived, for in every way it did me 
and my soul great good to speak with him. His attitude is very 
suited to persons whom it seerns the Lord has already brought 
very far along, for he makes them run rather than walk with 
measured step. His method is to detach them from everything 
and to mortify them, for the Lord has given him the most 
remarkable talent for doing this, as well as for many other things. 

10. At the time of my initial conversations with him I im- 
mediately understood his style and saw that his soul was a pure 
and holy one and that he had a special gift from the Lord for 
discerning spirits. He consoled me very much. A little while after 
I had got to know him, the Lord began again to urge me to take 
up once more the matter of the monastery and to give my con- 
fessor and this rector many reasons and arguments why they 
shouldn't impede me from the work. Some of these reasons made 
them fear because this Father Rector never doubted the project 
was from the spirit of God, for through much study and care 
he considered all the consequences. After much reflection they 
didn't dare venture to hinder me from carrying out this work. 

1 1 . My confessor gave me permission again to dedicate myself 
entirely to this foundation. I saw clearly the toil it would bring 
upon me since I was very much alone and had hardly any means. 
We agreed to carry on in total secrecy, and so I got one of my 
sisters 9 who lived outside this city to buy the house and fix it 
up, as though it were for herself, with money the Lord provided, 
in certain ways, for its purchase. It would take long to recount 
how the Lord was looking after it, for I took great care not to 
do anything against obedience. But I knew that if I said anything 
to my superiors, everything would be lost as happened the 
previous time, and things would even be worse. In procuring 
the money, acquiring the house, signing the contract for it, and 
fixing it up, I went through so many trials of so many kinds that 
now I'm amazed I was able to suffer them. In some of them I 
was completely alone; although my companion did what she 
could. But she could do little, and so little that it almost amounted 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to nothing more than to have everything done in her name and 
as her gift and all the rest of the trouble was mine. Sometimes 
in distress I said: "My Lord, how is it You command things that 
seem impossible? For if I were at least free, even though I am 
a woman! But bound on so many sides, without money or the 
means to raise it or to obtain the brief or anything, what can 
I do, Lord?" 

12. Once when in need, for I didn't know what to do or how 
to pay some workmen, St. Joseph, my true father and lord, ap- 
peared to me and revealed to me that I would not be lacking, 
that I should hire them. And so I did, without so much as a 
penny, and the Lord in ways that amazed those who heard about 
it provided for me. 10 The house struck me as being very small; 
so small that it didn't seem to be adequate for a monastery, and 
I wanted to buy another house next to it, which was also small, 
to serve as the church. I had no means or way of buying this 
nor did I know what to do. And one day after Communion, the 
Lord said to me: "I've already told you 11 to enter as best you 
can." And by way of exclamation He added: "Oh, covetousness 
of the human race, that you think you will be lacking even 
ground! How many times did I sleep in the open because I had 
no place else!" I was astonished and saw that He was right. I 
went to the little house and drew up plans and found that 
although small it was perfect for a monastery, and I didn't bother 
about buying more property. But I arranged to have it fixed 
up so that it could be lived in — with everything left rough and 
unpolished — and likewise so that it would not be harmful to 
health. And this is the way these things should be done always. 

13. On her feastday, 12 while I was going to Communion, St. 
Clare appeared to me with striking beauty. She told me to take 
courage and to continue on with what I had begun, that she 
would help me. I became very devoted to her; and what she said 
has indeed come true, for a nearby monastery of nuns of her 
order helps sustain us. 13 What is more important is that little 
by little she brought this desire of mine to such perfection that 
the poverty the blessed saint practiced in her house is practiced 
in this one, and we are living on alms. For it had cost me no 
small amount of trouble that this observance of poverty would 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 33 


have all the backing and authority of the Holy Father behind 
it so that no one could change it and that there never be any 
income. And the Lord does more, and it must perhaps be through 
the prayers of this blessed saint, for without any request His 
Majesty fully provides what is necessary for us. May He be 
blessed forever, amen. 

14. On one of these same days, the feast of the Assumption 
of our Lady while at a monastery of the order of the glorious 
St. Dominic, 14 I was reflecting upon the many sins I had in the 
past confessed in that house and many things about my wretched 
life. A rapture came upon me so great that it almost took me 
out of myself. I sat down; it still seems to me I couldn't see the 
elevation or hear Mass, and afterward I had a scruple about this. 
It seemed to me while in this state that I saw myself vested in 
a white robe of shining brightness, but at first I didn't see who 
was clothing me in it. Afterward I saw our Lady at my right 
side and my father St. Joseph at the left, for they were putting 
that robe on me. I was given to understand that I was now 
cleansed of my sins. After being clothed and while experiencing 
the most marvelous delight and glory, it seemed to me then that 
our Lady took me by the hands. She told me I made her very 
happy in serving the glorious St. Joseph, that I should believe 
that what I was striving for in regard to the monastery would 
be accomplished, that the Lord and those two would be greatly 
served in it, that I shouldn't fear there would ever be any failure 
in this matter even though the obedience which was to be given 
was not to my liking, because they would watch over us, and 
that her Son had already promised us He would be with us, that 
as a sign that this was true she was giving me a jewel. It seemed 
to me she placed around my neck a very beautiful golden necklace 
to which was attached a highly valuable cross. This gold and 
these stones are incomparably different from earthly ones. Their 
beauty is very different from what is imaginable here below. And 
the intellect cannot attain to an understanding of the nature of 
the robe that the Lord desires to have represented, nor can one 
imagine its whiteness; everything here on earth in comparison 
is like a sketch made from soot, so to speak. 

15. The beauty I saw in our Lady was extraordinary, although 


St. Teresa of Avila 

I didn't make out any particular details except the form of her 
face in general and that her garment was of the most brilliant 
white, not dazzling but soft. I didn't see the glorious St. Joseph 
so clearly, although I saw indeed that he was there, as in the 
visions I mentioned that are not seen. 15 Our Lady seemed to 
me to be a very young girl. They were with me a little while; 
and I was in a state of wonderful glory and happiness, which 
in my opinion I had never experienced and which I did not want 
to see come to an end; then it seemed to me I saw them ascend 
to heaven with a great multitude of angels. I was left in deep 
loneliness, although so consoled and elevated and recollected in 
prayer and moved to love that I remained some time without 
being able to stir or speak, but almost outside myself. I was left 
with a great impulse to be dissolved for God and with similar 
effects. And everything happened in such a way that I could never 
doubt, no matter how much I tried, that the vision was from 
God. It left me very comforted and with great peace. 

16. As for what the Queen of Angels said concerning obe- 
dience, 16 it pertained to the fact that it distressed me not to give 
obedience to the order, but the Lord had told me it wasn't suitable 
to give it to my superiors. He gave me the reasons why it would 
in no way be fitting that I do so. But He told me I should peti- 
tion Rome in a certain way, which He also indicated to me, and 
that He would take care that we get our request. And so it came 
about, for the petition was made the way the Lord told me and 
it was granted easily, whereas we had been unable to obtain it. 
Because of some things that happened afterward it was very for- 
tunate the obedience was given to the bishop. But at that time 
I wasn't acquainted with the prelate, nor did I know who he 
would be. The Lord willed that he be an excellent one and that 
he be strongly in favor of this house, as was necessary because 
of the great opposition there was to it, as I shall say after- 
ward, 17 and in order that it be established in its present state. 
May He be blessed who in this way did everything, amen. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 34 


Chapter 34 

Discusses how at this time it was opportune for her to leave the city. Tells 
about the reason and how her superior ordered her to go to console a lady 
of the nobility who was very distressed. Begins to deal with what happened 
there and the great favor the Lord granted her in making her the means by 
which He awakened a very eminent person to serve Him wholeheartedly, 
and how afterward she had this persons support and favor. The chapter is 
most important. 

work be secret, I couldn't keep it all so hidden that there 
wouldn't be those persons who would find out about it; some 
believed what they heard, others didn't. I feared a great deal 
that if someone should tell the provincial when he came, he would 
order me not to continue; and immediately the whole thing would 
have to stop. The Lord provided in this way. It happened that 
in a large city, more than twenty leagues from here, a lady was 
very grieved because of the death of her husband. Her distress 
had reached such an extreme that they feared for her health. 1 
She had heard news about this little sinner, for the Lord had 
so arranged matters that for the sake of other blessings that would 
follow they spoke highly to her about me. This lady was well 
acquainted with the provincial, and since she was a person of 
the nobility and knew I was in a monastery where the nuns were 
allowed to go out, the Lord gave her a strong, irresistible desire 
to see me; she thought I would be able to console her. She im- 
mediately tried by every means she could to bring me there, and 
to this effect sent a message to the provincial who was far away. 
He sent me an order, under precept of obedience, to go im- 
mediately with another companion. I learned of it on Christmas 
eve . 2 

2 . It caused me some disturbance and a lot of affliction to know 
that she wanted to bring me there because she thought there was 
some good in me, for since I knew I was so wretched I couldn't 
bear such a thought. Praying to God very earnestly about this, 
I spent all of Matins, or a great part of it, in a deep rapture. 
The Lord told me to go and not listen to opinions, because few 


St. Teresa of Avila 

would counsel me prudently; that even though I would have 
trials, God would be greatly served; that for the business con- 
cerning the monastery it was fitting I be absent until the brief 
arrive because the devil had set up a cunning plot for when the 
provincial would return; that I shouldn't fear anything; that He 
would help me there. I was very much strengthened and con- 
soled. I told the rector about it. He told me I should by no means 
fail to go. For others told me that I shouldn't abide by the pro- 
vincial's letter, that it was the invention of the devil so that some 
harm could come to me there; that I should write back to the 

3. I obeyed the rector, and with what I had learned in prayer 
I went without fear, although not without sheer embarrassment 
in considering the title under which they were bringing me there 
and how much they were being deceived. This made me beg 
the Lord more that He not abandon me. I was very consoled 
that there was a house of the Society of Jesus in that city where 
I was going 3 and that by submitting to their orders as I did 
here I would, I thought, have some security. It pleased the Lord 
that that lady was so comforted she soon began to improve 
noticeably, and each day she found herself more at ease. She 
valued this improvement highly because, as I said, 4 the suffer- 
ing had weighed on her heavily. And the Lord must have done 
this through the many prayers good persons I knew offered in 
order that things would turn out well for me. She was very God- 
fearing and so good that her abundant Christian spirit supplied 
for what was lacking in me. She grew deeply fond of me. I 
esteemed her very much in observing her goodness. But almost 
everything was a cross for me because the comforts caused me 
great torment, and I was very fearful about the big fuss made 
over me. My soul was so dispirited I didn't dare grow negligent, 
nor did the Lord neglect me; while I was there He granted me 
the most wonderful favors. These gave me such freedom and 
made me so despise all that I saw — and the greater the favors, 
the greater the contempt — that I conversed with those noble 
ladies, whom it would have been an honor for me to serve, with 
the freedom I would have felt had I been their equal. 

4. I derived a very beneficial insight, and I told her about 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 34 


it. I realized that she was a woman and as subject to passions 
and weaknesses as I, and how little should be our esteem for 
the status of nobility, and that the greater the nobility the more 
the cares and trials. I observed the solicitude they had for preserv- 
ing their composure in conformity with this status, which doesn't 
allow them to live, obliging them to eat without rhyme or reason 
because everything must be done in accordance with their status 
and not with their bodily constitution. (They have often to eat 
food that is more in harmony with their position than with their 
liking.) As a result I totally abhorred any desire to become a 
lady of the nobility — God deliver me from faulty composure! — 
even though I believe there are few women more humble or of 
greater simplicity than this lady who is one of the most noble 
in the kingdom. I pitied her and felt it when I saw how often 
she had to go against her inclination in order to fulfill the duties 
of her state. As for the servants, what they can be trusted with 
amounts to little, even though she had good ones. You dare not 
speak to one more than to the other, or else the one you favor 
will be disliked by the others. This is a kind of subservience that 
makes calling such persons "lords" one of the world's lies, for 
it doesn't seem to me they are anything but slaves to a thousand 

5. The Lord was pleased that while I stayed at that house the 
persons who lived in it improved in their service of His Majesty, 
although I wasn't free of some trials and some envy on the part 
of a few because of the great love that lady had for me. They 
perhaps must have thought I was aiming after some personal 
advantage. The Lord most probably allowed them to provide 
me with some trials and similar things as well as other things 
of another kind so that I wouldn't be charmed by the comfort 
I likewise experienced, and He was pleased to draw me out of 
it all with improvement for my soul. 

6. While I was there it happened that a certain religious came 
to that city, a person from the nobility with whom I had some- 
times conversed many years previously. 5 Once, when attending 
Mass at a monastery of his order near the place where I was 
staying, there came over me a desire to know the condition of 
his soul since I wanted him to be a great servant of God; and 


St. Teresa of Avila 

I rose to go to speak to him. Since I was already recollected in 
prayer, it seemed to me after I got up that it was a waste of time, 
and I wondered why I should meddle, and returned to my seat. 
It seems to me that this happened three times, and finally, the 
good angel was more powerful than the bad; I went to call him, 
and he came to speak with me in the confessional. We began 
to question each other — for it was many years since we had met — 
about our lives. I began to tell him I had experienced many trials 
of soul. He strongly urged me to tell him what the trials were. 
I told him they were not meant to be known nor was it meant 
that I should speak of them. He said that since the Dominican 
Father I mentioned — 6 who was a great friend of his — knew 
about them he would find out from him and that I shouldn't 
worry about it. 

7. The fact is that neither was it in his power to stop pressing 
me nor was it in mine, it seems to me, to resist speaking about 
them. For despite all the displeasures and shame I usually felt 
when I spoke about these things, I didn't feel any pain with him 
or with the rector I mentioned; 7 rather, I was very much con- 
soled. I told him about them under the seal of confession. He 
seemed to me wiser than ever, although I always thought he had 
a great mind. I considered the wonderful talents and gifts he 
had for doing much good, were he to give himself totally to God. 
I've experienced this for some years: as soon as I see a person 
who greatly pleases me, with longings I sometimes cannot bear, 
I want to see him give himself totally to God. And although I 
desire that all serve God, the longings come with very great 
impulses in the case of these persons I like; so I beg the Lord 
very much on their behalf. With the religious I'm speaking of, 
it so happened to me. 

8. He asked me to pray earnestly to God for him, but he had 
no need to ask since I was already of such a mind that I couldn't 
have done otherwise. I went to the place where I usually prayed 
alone and, being deeply recollected, began to talk to the Lord 
in a foolish way, which I often do without knowing what I'm 
saying. It is love that is then speaking, and the soul is so 
transported that I don't notice the difference there is between 
it and God. Love that knows it possesses His Majesty forgets 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 34 


the soul and thinks it is in Him and, as one without division, 
speaks absurdities. I recall that after having begged Him with 
many tears for that soul, that it be truly committed to His service, 
I said that even though I considered him good this didn't satisfy 
me, since I wanted him to be very good; and so I said to His 
Majesty: "Lord, You must not deny me this favor; see how this 
individual is fit to be our friend." 

9. O goodness and great humanity of God! You don't look 
at the words but at the desires and the will with which they are 
spoken! How do You bear that one like myself should speak so 
boldly to Your Majesty! May You be blessed forever and ever. 

10. I recall that in those hours of prayer that night there came 
over me a great affliction in wondering whether I was at enmity 
with God. Since I couldn't know whether I was in grace or not 
(not that I wanted to know, but that I desired to die so as not 
to find myself in a life where I wasn't sure whether or not I was 
dead — for there couldn't have been a more grievous death for 
me than to wonder whether I had offended God), this pain op- 
pressed me. All overflowing and dissolved in tears, I begged God 
not to permit me to be without grace. Then I understood that 
I could truly be consoled and certain that I was in grace because 
a love of God like this, and those favors and sentiments His 
Majesty gave me, could not exist harmoniously with a soul in 
mortal sin. I remained confident the Lord would grant what I 
begged of Him for this person. He told me some words to tell 
him. I greatly disliked doing this because I didn't know how to 
say them. This matter of giving a message to a third party, as 
I said, 8 is what I always dislike most; especially in this case 
since I didn't know how the person would take it, or if he would 
make fun of me. I got very distressed about it. Finally, I became 
so persuaded that I believe I promised God I wouldn't fail to 
tell this person; because of my great embarrassment, I put the 
words in writing and gave them to him. 

1 1 . They indeed seemed to be from God on account of the 
effect they had upon him. He resolved very sincerely to dedicate 
himself to prayer, even though he didn't do so at once. Since 
the Lord had wanted this person for Himself, He sent him some 
truths by means of me, which, without my understanding them, 


St. Teresa of Avila 

were so apropos that they amazed him. And the Lord must have 
disposed him to believe they were from His Majesty. I, although 
wretched, begged the Lord intensely to convert this individual 
to Himself completely, and to make him abhor the satisfactions 
and things of life. Consequently — may God be praised forever! — 
he turned to God so completely that every time he speaks to me, 
I'm stupefied. If I hadn't seen it, I would have doubted that in 
such a short time the favors would have so increased and he would 
have been so occupied with God that he no longer seemed to 
live for anything else on earth. May His Majesty protect him, 
for if he continues to advance like this (which I hope in the Lord 
he will since he is well grounded in self-knowledge), he will 
become one of God's most distinguished servants for the great 
benefit of many souls. Within a short time he has had much ex- 
perience in spiritual things; these are gifts God gives when he 
desires and how He desires, and they depend neither on time 
nor on services. I do not mean that time and services are not 
important, but often the contemplation the Lord doesn't give 
to one in twenty years He gives to another in one. His Majesty 
knows the reason. This is a mistake we make: we think that with 
years we shall come to understand what in no way can be compre- 
hended without experience. And so many are wrong, as I 
said, 9 in wanting to discern spirits without having experience. 
I don't say that anyone who has not had spiritual experience, 
provided he is a learned man, should not guide someone who 
has. But he ought to limit himself to seeing to it that in both 
exterior and interior matters the soul walks in conformity to the 
natural way through the use .of reason; and in supernatural ex- 
periences he should see that it walks in conformity with Sacred 
Scripture. As for the rest he shouldn't kill himself or think he 
understands what he doesn't, or suppress the spirit; 10 for now, 
in respect to the spirit, another greater Lord governs them; they 
are not without a Superior. 

12. Let him not be surprised or think these things are impos- 
sible—everything is possible with the Lord — but strive to 
strengthen his own faith and humble himself in that the Lord 
makes a little old woman wiser, perhaps, in this science than 
he is, even though he is a very learned man. With his humility 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 34 


he will do more good for souls and for himself than by becom- 
ing a contemplative without it. For I repeat that if he doesn't 
have experience and a very great deal of humility in knowing 
that he doesn't understand the experience, but that it's not im- 
possible on that account, he will be of little profit to himself and 
of still less profit to those with whom he deals. If he's humble, 
he shouldn't fear that the Lord will allow either of them to be 

13. The Lord gave humility in many things to this Dominican 
Father of whom I'm speaking. As a result this Father strove to 
learn through study everything he could in this matter, for he 
is a good scholar. And what he doesn't know through experience 
he finds out from one who has it. Thus the Lord helps him by 
giving him deep faith, and so this Father has himself profited 
very much and has helped other souls; and mine is one of them. 
It seems that, since His Majesty was about to call to Himself 
some who were guiding me, 11 He provided that there be others 
to help me through difficult troubles and do me great good. The 
Lord changed him almost completely, in such a way that he hard- 
ly knew himself, so to speak; and the Lord gave him bodily 
strength for penance (which he didn't have before, but was sickly), 
and courage for everything good, and other things. It indeed 
seems to have been a very particular call from the Lord. May 
He be blessed forever. 

14.1 believe all the good comes to this Father from the favors 
the Lord granted him in prayer, for this good is not counterfeit. 
Already in some things the Lord has desired that he be tried, 
and he has come out of these trials as one who has already learned 
about the merit gained in suffering persecutions. I hope in the 
greatness of the Lord that through him much good will come 
to some persons of his order and to the order itself. This is already 
beginning to be known. I have seen great visions, and the Lord 
has told me some highly admirable things about him and about 
the rector of the Society of Jesus, whom I mentioned, 12 and 
about two other religious of the order of St. Dominic — especially 
about one of them, 13 for His Majesty has already made known 
in deed some things having to do with his progress that I had 
known previously. But of the one of whom I'm now speaking 


St. Teresa of Avila 

many things have been manifested to me. 

15. Now I want to say one thing here: I was once with him 
in a parlor and my soul and spirit came to such an understand- 
ing of the great love of God that burned in his spirit that this 
knowledge almost absorbed me, for I was considering the 
grandeur of God who in so short a time had raised a soul to such 
a high state. It made me very embarrassed because I saw him 
listening with so much humility to some things I was saying about 
prayer and saw that I had little of it to be speaking in such a 
way with a person like this. The Lord must have suffered it 
because of the strong desire I had to see this person far advanced. 
It benefited me so much to be with him that it seems he left my 
soul fired anew with the desire to serve the Lord from the begin- 
ning. O my Jesus, what a soul inflamed in Your love ac- 
complishes! How highly we must esteem such a soul and how 
we must beg the Lord to let it remain in this life! Whoever has 
this same love must follow after these souls if possible. 

16. It is a wonderful thing when a sick person finds another 
wounded with that same sickness; how great the consolation to 
find you are not alone. The two become a powerful help to each 
other in suffering and meriting. What excellent backing they 
give to one another since they are determined to risk a thous- 
and lives for God and they desire the opportunities for losing 
them. They are like soldiers who want to make war in order to 
capture the spoils and become rich; they have understood that 
such riches cannot be acquired any other way. This is their duty: 
to labor. Oh, what a great thing it is when the Lord gives this 
light to understand the abundance that is gained in suffering 
for Him! This isn't well understood until one abandons all for 
Him. For those who rest in something show that they esteem 
it; surely if they esteem it they will be sorry to give it up — and 
already everything is going imperfectly and astray. The saying 
fits well here that the lost go after what is lost. And what greater 
perdition, greater blindness, greater misfortune than to cherish 
that which is nothing? 

17. Well, to return to what I was saying, 14 while with thej 
deepest joy I was contemplating that soul, it seems the Lord 
wanted me to see clearly the treasures He had placed in it. See- 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 34 


ing the favor He granted me in that He used me as a means — 
though I found myself unworthy to be such — I had higher esteem 
for the favors the Lord granted this soul and considered them 
more my own than if they had been given to me. I praised His 
Majesty upon seeing that He was fulfilling my desires and had 
heard my prayer, which was that the Lord awaken persons like 
these. My soul being then in such a state that it couldn't bear 
so much joy, it went out of itself and was lost, so the more to 
gain. The reflections were forgotten, and while I was hearing 
that divine language in which it seems the Holy Spirit was speak- 
ing, a powerful rapture came over me which almost made me 
lose my senses, although it lasted only a short while. I saw Christ 
with awesome majesty and glory showing great happiness over 
what was taking place. Thus He told me and wanted me to see 
clearly that He was always present in conversations like these 
and how much He is pleased when persons so delight in speak- 
ing of Him. 

At another time, I saw this Father, when he was away from 
this place, raised up by angels in great glory. 15 Through this 
vision I understood that his soul was making much progress. 
Thus it happened that serious testimony against his honor was 
given by a person for whom he had done much good by pro- 
viding a remedy for this person's soul and own loss of honor. 
He underwent this with great happiness, performed other works 
of much service to God, and suffered other persecutions. 

18. It doesn't seem to me fitting now to describe anything 
more. If afterward, since you know about these things, 16 your 
Reverence should think it is indeed appropriate, they can be put 
down for the glory of the Lord. What I said about the prophecies 
concerning this house, and other prophecies I shall mention, as 
well as other things, were all fulfilled. Some the Lord told me 
three years before they came about — others more than three, 
others less. I always told them to my confessor and to this widow 
friend of mine whom I had permission to tell, as I said. 17 I 
have known that she has told them to other persons, and these 
persons know I am not lying; nor may God ever permit me to 
lie, for in no instance would I speak anything but the complete 
truth — and how much more in matters so serious. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

19. When a brother-in-law of mine died suddenly 18 and I 
was deeply grieved because he hadn't had the chance to go to 
confession, it was told to me in prayer that my sister would die 
this way, that I should go to her and try to get her to prepare 
herself for such an event. I told my confessor and since he didn't 
allow me to go, I heard the message at other times. When he 
learned of this, he told me to go there, and that there was nothing 
to lose. She lived in a small village; 19 I went and, without tell- 
ing her about the locution, enlightened her as I could about 
everything and got her to confess very frequently and in all events 
to take care of her soul. She was very good and she did so. Within 
four or five days after she had gained this habit and become very 
conscientious, she died without seeing anyone or being able to 
confess. Happily, since she had acquired the habit, little more 
than eight days had passed since she had gone to confession. 
News of her death brought me great joy. She remained a very 
short while in purgatory. I don't think more than eight days 
passed when the Lord appeared to me after I received Commu- 
nion and wanted me to see how He brought her to glory. In 
all those years from the time He told me until she died, I didn't 
forget what had been made known to me, nor did my compa- 
nion; as soon as my sister died, my companion came to me very 
much amazed to see how the revelation had been fulfilled. May 
God be praised forever who takes such care of souls so that they 
be not lost. 

Chapter 35 

Continues on the same subject: the foundation of this house of our glorious 
father St. Joseph. Tells of the means the Lord provided by which holy 
poverty would be observed in it, the reason why she left the lady she was 
staying with and returned, and of some other things that happened to her. 

WELL, WHILE I WAS WITH this lady I mentioned, 1 
with whom I stayed more than a half year, the Lord or- 
dained that a beata 2 of our order who lived more than seventy 
leagues from here should find out about me. She decided to come 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 35 


here, making a detour of several leagues, to speak to me. The 
Lord had inspired her the same year and month He did me to 
found another monastery of this order. As soon as He gave her 
this desire, she sold all that she had and walked to Rome barefoot 
to get a patent for it. 

2. She is a woman who practices much penance and prayer; 
the Lord has granted her many favors, and our blessed Lady 
appeared to her and ordered her to make the foundation. She 
was so far ahead of me in serving the Lord that I was ashamed 
to stand in her presence. She showed me the patent letters she 
brought from Rome, and during the fifteen days she stayed with 
me we arranged how we should go about founding these mona- 
steries. Until I had spoken to her, it hadn't been brought to my 
notice that our rule — before it was mitigated — ordered that we 
own nothing, 5 nor had I been about to found the house without 
an income. My intention had been that we have no worries about 
our needs; I hadn't considered the many cares ownership of pro- 
perty brings with it. Since the Lord had taught her, this holy 
woman understood well, without knowing how to read, what 
I, after having read over our constitutions so often, didn't know. 
As she told me about it, it seemed to me to be right, although 
I feared they wouldn't allow me, but say I was doing something 
foolish and that I shouldn't do a thing that would make others 
suffer on my account. Had I been alone it wouldn't have held 
me back either little or much; rather, it would have been a great 
pleasure for me to think I was keeping the counsels of Christ, 
our Lord, since His Majesty had already given me great desires 
for poverty. Thus I didn't doubt that poverty was the best thing 
for me, because for a long time I had been desiring that it would 
be possible for me to go begging for love of God and not have 
a house or anything. But I feared that if the Lord didn't give 
the others these desires, their lives would be unhappy. I also 
feared that poverty would be the cause of some distraction since 
I observed certain poor monasteries in which there wasn't much 
recollection. I failed to reflect that this lack of recollection was 
the cause of their being poor and that it was not the practice 
of poverty that caused their distraction. For distraction won't 
make monasteries richer; nor does God ever fail anyone who 


St. Teresa of Avila 

serves Him. In sum, I had weak faith, which was not true of 
this servant of God. 

3. Since I consulted in all things with so many, I nonetheless 
found almost no one with this opinion, neither my confessor nor 
the learned men with whom I dealt. They brought out so many 
reasons against poverty that I didn't know what to do. Since I 
knew it was in the rule and saw that observing poverty would 
be more perfect, I couldn't persuade myself that the monastery 
should have an income. And if sometimes they had me con- 
vinced, when I returned to prayer and contemplating Christ on 
the cross, so poor and so naked, I couldn't patiently accept the 
idea of being rich. I tearfully begged Him to ordain things so 
that I would see myself poor, as He was. 

4. I found so many disadvantages in having an income and saw 
it would be so great a cause of disquiet and even distraction that 
I did nothing else but dispute with learned men. I wrote about 
it to the Dominican religious 4 who was helping us. He sent me 
two pages with objections and theology written on both sides 
on why I shouldn't do it, and he also told me he had studied 
the matter very carefully. I answered him that I didn't want to 
benefit from theology if it wasn't conducive to my following my 
vocation, my vow of poverty, and the counsels of Christ with 
total perfection, and that in this case he did me no favor with 
his learning. If I found some person who would help me, I 
became very happy. That lady with whom I was staying' was 
a great help to me in this matter. Some told me in the begin- 
ning that the idea seemed to them good; afterward, as they began 
to reflect about it, they found so many disadvantages that they 
returned to insist on my not carrying it out. I told them that, 
since they were so quick to change their opinion, I preferred 
to follow the first. 

5. At this time, since this lady hadn't seen the holy Friar Peter 
of Alcantara, the Lord was pleased through my entreaties that 
he come to her house. Because he was a true lover of poverty 
and had practiced it for so many years, he knew well the riches 
that lay within it; so he helped me a great deal and ordered that 
I should by no means fail to go through with my plan. () With 
this favorable opinion from one who could give the best opinion 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 35 


since he had known about poverty through wide experience, I 
made up my mind not to go looking for other opinions. 

6. One day while praying intensely to God about this matter, 
the Lord told me I shouldn't in any way fail to found the 
monastery in poverty, that this was both the will of His Father 
and His own, that He would help me. This took place during 
a deep rapture with so many remarkable effects that I couldn't 
have any doubt the desire was from God. 

Another time He told me an income would cause disturbance 
of mind, and added other things in favor of poverty, assuring 
me that whoever would observe it would not lack the necessities 
of life; this lack, as I say, I never feared for myself. The Lord 
also changed the heart of the presentado, 7 I mean of the 
Dominican I mentioned who had written to me that I shouldn't 
found the monastery without income. I was very happy to hear 
this then and to have these opinions. It seemed to me I possessed 
all the world's riches in resolving to live by the love of God. 

7. At this time, since there was going to be an election in my 
monastery, my provincial 8 lifted his command and the obe- 
dience he had placed me under to stay with this lady, and he 
left it up to me to choose whether to return or to remain with 
her for awhile. Some sent me the news that many wanted to give 
me the charge of being superior. Merely to think of such a thing 
was a terrible torment. Whereas I was determined to suffer easily 
any martyrdom for God, by no artifice could I persuade myself 
to suffer this one. Besides the great amount of work (there were 
many nuns) 9 and other reasons for which I never liked the 
thought of having any office, it seemed to me that being superior 
would be very dangerous for my conscience; so I praised God 
I wasn't there. I wrote to my friends not to vote for me. 

8. While I was very happy that I wasn't in the midst of all 
that clatter, the Lord told me I should by no means fail to go, 
that since I desired the cross a good one was ready for me, that 
I shouldn't reject it, that I ought to go with courage, that He 
would help me, and that I must go right away. I became very 
disturbed and didn't do anything but weep, for I thought the 
cross meant I would be elected superior; and, as I say, I couldn't 
be persuaded that such an office would be any good for my 


St. Teresa of Avila 

soul — nor did I find in myself the qualifications. I gave an ac- 
count of all to my confessor. He told me I should thus try to 
go, that it would be clearly the more perfect thing to do, and 
that since it was very hot it would be sufficient for me to be there 
for the election, and that I could wait some days before going 
so as not to get sick from the journey. But the Lord had ordained 
otherwise, and so things came about. 

Interiorly I was extremely restless, and I couldn't practice 
prayer. It seemed to me I was failing to do what the Lord had 
commanded me and that, since I was in that place to my own 
liking and pleasure, I didn't want to go to offer myself to the 
trial; that I was all words with God and that, since I could be 
there where it would be more perfect for me to be, I had to ask 
why I was failing to go; that if I should die, I should die! Along 
with all this went a constriction of soul, and the Lord took away 
all satisfaction in prayer. In sum, I was in such a state and so 
severely tormented that I asked that lady to be good enough to 
let me go. Already my confessor — since he saw me in this state — 
had told me to go, for God likewise moved him as He did me. 

9. She so regretted my leaving her that her sorrow was another 
torment for me. It had cost her very much, many kinds of urgent 
pleas, to get permission from the provincial to have me with her. 
Thus it was a most difficult thing for her to let me go, and she 
felt it keenly. But since she was very God-fearing and I told her, 
in addition to many other things, that my going could render 
God great service, and I gave her the hope it would be possible 
for me to return to see her, she accepted the fact of my leaving — 
although regretfully. 

10. I no longer was sorry to go; once I understood it was 
something more perfect and that it would render greater ser- 
vice to God, by means of the happiness it gives me to please 
Him, I was able to endure the pain of leaving that lady who 
I saw felt the separation so deeply and other persons whom I 
owed a great deal, especially my confessor, who was from the 
Society of Jesus, 10 and with whom I got along very well. But 
the more I saw I was losing consolation for the Lord's sake, the 
happier I became at losing it. I couldn't understand how this 
was possible, because I saw clearly these two contraries: my being 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 35 


pleased and consoled and happy over what weighed upon my 
soul. For I had been consoled and at peace there and had found 
time for many hours of prayer. I saw I was about to place myself 
in a fire, for the Lord had already told me 11 I was going to 
undergo a great cross, although I never thought it would be as 
great as I afterward found out it was. Nonetheless, I was happy 
in going; and since the Lord had desired me to go, I was dis- 
turbed that I hadn't entered the battle immediately. Thus His 
Majesty sent strength and placed it in the midst of my weakness. 

1 1 . I wasn't able, as I say, to understand how these contraries 
were possible. I thought of this comparison: Were I to possess 
a jewel, or something else that gave me great happiness, and 
then to find out that one whom I loved and wanted to please 
more than myself desired that object, my happiness in going 
without it would be greater than in possessing it if I made that 
other person happy. And because the happiness in pleasing the 
other would surpass my first happiness, it would take away any 
pain I might feel in the lack of the jewel, or of the thing cher- 
ished, or in losing the happiness it gave me. Thus, though I 
wanted to feel distress upon seeing that I was leaving persons 
from whom I so much regretted being separated (and I am by 
nature so grateful that at another time this would have been 
enough to cause me deep affliction), now, even though I wanted 
to feel it, I couldn't. 

12. It was so important, as regards the business of this holy 
house, for me not to have delayed a day longer that I don't know 
how I might have brought things to a conclusion if I had then 
stayed on there. O greatness of God! Often I am amazed when 
I consider how particularly His Majesty wanted to help me found 
this little dwelling corner for God. I believe this is what it is; 
it is an abode in which His Majesty delights, for He once said 
to me while I was in prayer that this house 12 was a paradise of 
delight for Him. And thus it seems His Majesty has selected the 
souls He has brought to this monastery. I live in their company 
very, very much ashamed. I wouldn't have known how to desire 
for this purpose souls such as these; so austere, poor, and prayer- 
ful. And they bear this austerity with a joy and happiness that 
makes each one feel unworthy to have deserved to come to a 


St. Teresa of Avila 

place like this. There are some, especially, whom the Lord called 
out of a world of much vanity and ostentation where they could 
have been satisfied in conformity with its laws. And the Lord 
has so doubled their joys in this house that they realized clearly 
He has given them a hundred joys for every one they left. M 
And they can't get enough of thanking His Majesty. With others, 
He has changed what was good into something better. To those 
who are young He gives fortitude and knowledge so that they 
are unable to desire anything else, and they understand that to 
be detached from all the things of life is to live in the greatest 
calm, even in regard to earthly things. To those who are older 
and have poor health He gives strength, and He gives them the 
power to bear the austerity and penance the others do. 

13. O my Lord, how obvious it is that You are almighty! 
There's no need to look for reasons for what You want. For, 
beyond all natural reason, You make things so possible that You 
manifest clearly there's no need for anything more than truly 
to love You and truly to leave all for You, so that You, my Lord, 
may make everything easy. It fits well here to say that You feign 
labor in Your law. For I don't see, Lord, nor do I know how 
the road that leads to You is narrow. 14 I see that it is a royal 
road, not a path; a road that is safer for anyone who indeed takes 
it. Very far off are the occasions of sin, those narrow mountain 
passes and the rocks that make one fall. What I would call a 
path, a wretched path and a narrow way, is the kind which has 
on one side, where a soul can fall, a valley far below, and on 
the other side a precipice: as soon as one becomes careless one 
is hurled down and broken into pieces. 

14. They who really love You, my Good, walk safely on a 
broad and royal road. They are far from the precipice. Hardly 
have they begun to stumble when You, Lord, give them Your 
hand. One fall is not sufficient for a person to be lost, nor are 
many, if they love You and not the things of the world. They 
journey in the valley of humility. I cannot understand what it 
is that makes people afraid of setting out on the road of perfec- 
tion. May the Lord, because of who He is, give us understanding 
of how wretched is the security that lies in such manifest dangers 
as following the crowd and how true security lies in striving to 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 36 


make progress on the road of God. Let them turn their eyes to 
Him and not fear the setting of this Sun of Justice, nor, if we 
don't first abandon Him, will He allow us to walk at night and 
go astray. 

15. They aren't afraid to walk among lions (by which I mean 
whatever the world calls honors, delights, and similar pleasures) 
where it seems each lion would want to tear off a piece of them; 
and here on this road it seems the devil makes them afraid of 
field mice. A thousand times do I marvel and ten thousand times 
would I like to find satisfaction in bewailing and crying out to 
everyone my great blindness and wickedness so that doing this 
might help them open their eyes. May anyone who can, through 
God's goodness, open them; and may He not permit me to 
become blind, amen. 

Chapter 36 

Continues the same subject. Tells how this monastery of the glorious St. 
Joseph was finally founded and of the strong opposition and persecution 
the nuns had to undergo after taking the habit. Tells also of the great trials 
and temptations she suffered and how the Lord brought her out of them 
all victoriously to His own praise and glory. 

ONCE I LEFT THAT CITY 1 I journeyed very happily, 
determined to undergo most willingly everything the Lord 
desired. The very night I reached this city our patent and our 
brief 2 for the monastery arrived from Rome. I was amazed, 
and, when they learned of the great need there was for my be- 
ing here and of the coincidence the Lord had prepared for me, 
so too were those who knew how He made me come quickly. 
For I found here the bishop and the holy Friar Peter of Alcan- 
tara and another gentleman, a very good servant of God, 5 in 
whose house this holy friar was staying; this gentleman was a 
person in whom the servants of God found protection as well 
as a welcome. 

2. The two of them succeeded in getting the bishop to accept 


St. Teresa of Avila 

the monastery under his jurisdiction, 4 which was no small 
thing since the house was to be poor. But the bishop was so fond 
of persons whom he saw determined to serve the Lord that he 
soon grew fond of showing it his favor. And because this holy 
old Friar Peter approved it and urged now some, now others, 
to help us, it was he who did everything. If I hadn't by coin- 
cidence come at this precise time — as I already mentioned — I 
don't know how the monastery could have been founded. For 
this saintly man was here only a little while (I don't believe as 
many as eight days); he was very sick during them, and shortly 
afterward the Lord brought him to Himself. 1 It seems His 
Majesty preserved him until this matter was taken care of because 
for a long time — I don't know if it exceeded two years — he was 
very sick. 

3. Everything was done in deep secrecy; if it hadn't been, 
nothing could have been accomplished since the people were op- 
posed to the foundation, as became manifest afterward. The Lord 
ordained that my brother- in-law b become ill; since his wife was 
not here and he was in such need, my superiors gave me per- 
mission to stay with him. With this excuse nothing became 
known, although some persons didn't fail to suspect something; 
yet they didn't believe their suspicions. It was an amazing thing 
that he wasn't any sicker than was necessary for the business 
to be taken care of. When there was need that he get well so 
that I could be free and that he could leave the house empty, 
the Lord immediately brought this about; at which my brother- 
in-law marvelled. 

4. I had a lot of trouble with some persons at times — and with 
others at other times — that the monastery be accepted. I had 
trouble with my sick brother-in-law and with the workmen to 
get them to convert the house into a monastery and make it ready 
quickly, for there was still much to be done. Moreover, my 
companion 7 was not here; it seemed to us we could better con- 
ceal what we were doing if she were absent. For many reasons 
I was taking care that everything be done in a hurry; one of the 
reasons for this was that I feared by the hour they would make 
me return to my own monastery. 8 There were so many trying 
things that I wondered if this wasn't the cross; 9 although it still 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 36 


seemed to me small in comparison with the great cross I learned 
from the Lord I would have to suffer. 

5. When everything was ready the Lord was pleased that on 
St. Bartholomew's day the habit was received by some 10 and 
the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, and with all due authority 
and power our monastery of our most glorious father St. Joseph 
was founded, in 1562. I, along with two other nuns from our 
house who happened to be outside, 11 was present at this 
clothing. Since this house that was converted into a monastery 
was the one in which my brother-in-law lived (for, as I said, 12 
he was the one who bought it in order to keep the project a better 
secret), I was there with permission; and I hadn't done anything 
without getting advice from learned men so as not to go one iota 
against obedience. Since these learned men observed that for 
many reasons the monastery would be very beneficial for the 
whole order, they told me I could go ahead even though I did 
so secretly and was careful that my superiors not find out about 
it. If these learned men had told me an imperfection lay in what 
I was doing, no matter how small, I would have given up found- 
ing a thousand monasteries, how much more one. This is cer- 
tain, for although I desired to withdraw more from everything 
and live my profession and vocation with greater perfection and 
enclosure, I desired this in such a way that if I had found out 
it would have been of greater service to the Lord to abandon 
the project, I would have done so with complete peace and calm, 
as I did the other time. 13 

6. Well, with me it was like being in glory to see the Blessed 
Sacrament reserved and that four poor orphans (for they didn't 
bring any dowry) 14 and four great servants of God (for this is 
what I had in mind from the beginning, that persons would enter 
who by their example of prayer and a very perfect life would 
be a foundation upon which we could achieve our goal) would 
give each other support; and to see a work accomplished that 
I knew was for the service of the Lord and to the honor of the 
habit of His glorious Mother — for these were my concerns. It 
also consoled me to have done what the Lord had so often given 
me the command to do; that there was another church in this 
city, dedicated to my glorious father St. Joseph, in whose honor 


St. Teresa of Avila 

none was yet built. But this consolation didn't come because it 
seemed to me that I myself did anything to bring about this new 
foundation. To me it never seemed that I did anything, nor does 
it now. I always know that the Lord did it, and what I did for 
my part I did with so many imperfections that I rather find there 
was a reason to blame myself than be pleased with myself. But 
it was a great delight for me to see that His Majesty had used 
me — who am so wretched — as an instrument for such a marve- 
lous work. Thus I was so intensely happy that I was as though 
outside myself, in deep prayer. 

7. After all was over and about three or four hours had passed, 
the devil stirred up within me a spiritual battle, as I shall now 
describe. He brought doubts to my mind about whether what 
I had done was wrong; whether I had gone against obedience 
in having made the foundation without my provincial's orders. 
For it indeed seemed to me the provincial would be somewhat 
displeased because the house was under the jurisdiction of the 
Ordinary and for my not having told him first; although, since 
he had not wanted to give permission and I myself had not 
changed my obedience, it also seemed to me that on the other 
hand he wouldn't care at all. And there were doubts as to whether 
those who lived here would be happy with so much austerity. 
What if they lacked food? Wasn't it all foolishness? Who got me 
involved in all this since I already had a monastery to live in? 
All that the Lord had commanded me, and the great deal of 
advice, and the prayers that for more than two years had gone 
on almost without cease, all was erased from my memory as 
though it had never been. I only remembered my own decisions. 
And all the virtues, and my faith, were then suspended within 
me without my having the strength to activate any of them or 
defend myself against so many blows. 

8. The devil raised doubts in me also about how I wanted to 
shut myself up in so austere a house, and with my many illnesses. 
How would I be able to endure so much penance and leave a 
monastery that was large and pleasant and where I had always 
been so happy? And how could I leave so many friends, for 
perhaps those in the new house would not be to my liking? I 
had obligated myself to a great deal; perhaps I would despair. 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 36 


The devil by chance may have intended to take away my peace 
and quiet so that on account of such disturbance I wouldn't be 
able to pray and thus would lose my soul. 

Thoughts of this sort, all mixed together, he put before my 
mind; I was powerless to think of anything else This state was 
accompanied by an affliction and obscurity and darkness of soul 
that I wouldn't know how to exaggerate. Finding myself in such 
a condition, I made a visit to the Blessed Sacrament; although 
I couldn't pray. It seems to me the anguish I experienced was 
like that of someone in the death agony. I didn't dare speak of 
it to anyone, for I still didn't have a designated confessor. 

9. Oh, God help me, what a miserable life this is! There's no 
secure happiness, nor anything that doesn't change. A short time 
before it seemed to me I wouldn't change my happiness with 
anyone on earth, and now the very reason for this happiness 
tormented me in such a way that I didn't know what to do with 
myself. Oh, if we would carefully observe the affairs of our life! 
Each one would see through experience the little of either hap- 
piness or unhappiness we ought to have on their account. 

Certainly, I think, it was one of the most difficult periods in 
my life. It seems my spirit anticipated the many things I had 
yet to pass through, although they weren't as severe as this 
suffering would have been should it have lasted. But the Lord 
did not let His poor servant suffer long, for never did He fail 
to succor me in my tribulations. And He did so in my present 
one, for He gave me a little light to enable me to see it was the 
devil and to understand the truth that it was all due to the devil's 
desire to frighten me with lies. As a result I began to recall my 
strong resolutions to serve the Lord and my desires to suffer for 
Him. I reflected that if I were to fulfill these desires I couldn't 
go about seeking rest; and that if I had trials, they would be 
meritorious; and if unhappiness, it would serve as purgatory if 
I accepted it in the service of God; that I had nothing to fear, 
for since I desired trials, these troubles were good; that the greater 
the opposition the greater the gain. And why did I lack courage 
to serve one whom I owed so much? 

With these and other reflections, drawing up all my strength, 
I promised before the Blessed Sacrament to do all I could to 


St. Teresa of Avila 

obtain permission to come to live in this house, and to make 
a promise of enclosure when able to do it in good conscience. 

10. Once I did this the devil fled instantly and left me calm 
and happy; and I remained so, and have remained so always. 
All the enclosure and penance and other things that are observed 
in this house are extremely easy for me and amount to little. 
The happiness is so very great I sometimes wonder what I could 
choose on earth that would be more pleasant for me. I don't know 
if these observances are the reason for my having better health 
than ever, or whether the Lord — since it is necessary and right 
that I do as everyone else — wants to give me this consolation 
of being able to keep them, even though with difficulty. But all 
those persons who know about my illnesses marvel at this power. 
May He be blessed who gives all things and in whose power all 
things can be done! 15 

11. I was left truly exhausted from such a conflict, and I 
laughed to myself at the devil, for I saw clearly it was he. I believe 
the Lord permitted this conflict because I had never known what 
it was to be unhappy with being a nun (not for even a moment 
during the twenty-eight years or more that I was one), and that 
I might know the great favor He had thereby granted me and 
the torment He had freed me from; and also so that if I should 
meet someone who was unhappy I wouldn't be surprised but 
feel compassion for her and know how to console her. 

Once this conflict was over, after dinner, I wanted to rest a 
little since I had hardly slept the whole night, nor had I been 
without work or worry some of the other nights; and all the days 
had been truly tiring. But since what was done became known 
in my monastery, and there arose in the city a great outcry for 
the reasons I mentioned, 16 which seemed to bear some weight, 
the prioress 17 sent me an order to return to my monastery at 
once. On seeing her orders I left my nuns, who were very sad- 
dened, and returned immediately. I saw clearly that many trials 
would be awaiting me, but since the house was already estab- 
lished, I didn't worry much. I prayed to the Lord to protect me 
and to my father St. Joseph to bring me to his house, and I 
offered God what I would have to undergo. I was very happy 
about the coming opportunity to suffer for Him and be able to 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 36 


serve Him, for I believed they would immediately throw me into 
the prison cell. But I thought this would make me very happy 
since I wouldn't have to speak to anyone and would be able to 
rest a little in solitude, for which I had a real need because I 
was worn out from so much dealing with people. 

12. When I arrived and gave an account to my prioress, she 
was somewhat placated. They sent everything to the provincial, 
and the case was left up to him. When he came, I went before 
him very happy to know I was suffering something for the Lord 
because in this case I didn't find I had committed any offense 
either against His Majesty or against the order. Rather, I was 
trying with all my strength to bring our order increase, and I 
would have eagerly died for it since my whole desire was that 
our order fulfill its mission perfectly. I recalled the judgment 
pronounced on Christ and saw how it amounted to nothing at 
all, I accused myself of the fault as one who was very much to 
blame, 18 and this seemed true to anyone who didn't know all 
the reasons. After having received a serious reprimand, although 
not one as severe as the transgression deserved or in accordance 
with what many told the provincial, I didn't want to excuse 
myself; I had been determined about what I did. Rather, I 
begged to be pardoned and punished and that he not be vexed 
with me. 

13. I saw clearly that in some matters they condemned me 
without any fault on my part, for they said I did it so as to be 
esteemed or to become famous and other similar things. But in 
other matters I knew plainly they were speaking the truth, in 
saying that I was worse than others, in asking how, since I hadn't 
kept the strict religious observance of that house, I thought I 
could keep it in another stricter one, and in asserting that I gave 
scandal to the people and was promoting novelties. None of what 
they said caused me any disturbance or grief, although I let on 
that it did so as not to give the impression I didn't take to heart 
what they said to me. Finally the provincial ordered me to go 
before the nuns and give my account, and I had to do it. 

14. Since I felt interiorly calm and the Lord helped me, I gave 
my explanation in such a way that neither the provincial nor 
those who were present found anything to condemn me for. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Afterward I spoke to him more freely, and he was very satisfied 
and promised — if all went well — to give me permission to go 
there once the city quieted down, for the clamor throughout the 
whole city was vehement, as I shall now describe. 

15. After two or three days some of the councilmen as well 
as the mayor and the city council gathered in a meeting and 
unanimously stated they could by no means give consent, that 
to do so would bring notable harm to the republic, and that the 
Blessed Sacrament should be removed and the foundation should 
not in any way be allowed to continue. They ordered a meeting 
of all religious orders to be carried out in such a way that each 
could give its opinion through two learned spokesmen. Some 
of the spokesmen were silent, others condemned the new founda- 
tion. Finally they concluded that it should be supressed at once. 
Only one member, a pre 'sent ado of the order of St. Dominic, 1 " 
although he was opposed (not to the monastery, but to its being 
poor), said it wasn't something that had to be suppressed, that 
the matter should be considered carefully, that there was time 
for this, that such a decision pertained to the bishop — or other 
things of this nature. What he said was very helpful for they 
were so furious that it was a wonder they didn't carry out their 
decision right away. What happened, finally, was that the foun- 
dation had to continue in existence, for the Lord was pleased 
with it; and all of them together could do little against His will. 
They gave their reasons and were rightfully zealous; so, without 
offending God, they made me suffer as well as all the persons 
who were in favor of it (for there were some in its favor); and 
these persons underwent much persecution. 

16. The uproar among the people was such that they talked 
of nothing else, and they were all condemning me and appeal- 
ing to the provincial and to my monastery. I felt no more pain 
over what they said about me than if they hadn't said it, yet I 
was fearful the new house would be suppressed. This caused me 
great disturbance, as did also the realization that the persons 
who helped me were losing their credibility and suffering great 
trial; for what others said against me, I think, made me rejoice. 
If I had had a little faith, I wouldn't have experienced any distur- 
bance; but a certain lack in one of the virtues is enough to put 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 36 


them all to sleep. So, I was very afflicted for the two days in 
which these meetings, I mentioned, among the people took place. 
And while I was feeling really desolate, the Lord said to me: 
"Don't you know that I am mighty? What do you fear?" And 
He assured me the new monastery would not be suppressed. 
As a result I was left very consoled. They sent an official denun- 
ciation to the royal council. The reply that came asked for an 
account of how the new monastery was founded. 

17. As a result a long lawsuit began; the city sent its delegates 
to the royal council, and some persons had to go to represent 
the new monastery. But I had no money, nor did I know what 
to do. The Lord so provided that my provincial never ordered 
me to give up my involvement in the project. The provincial 
is so well disposed to everything virtuous that, even though he 
gave no actual help, he didn't want to oppose the foundation. 
He didn't give me permission to come here until he saw what 
the outcome of the lawsuit would be. These servants of God were 
alone; and they did more through their prayers than I did through 
my negotiations, although these negotiations required much 

Sometimes it seemed that everything was failing, especially 
one day before the provincial came when the prioress gave me 
the order not to have anything more to do with the new 
monastery; this meant abandoning everything. I went to God 
and told Him: "Lord, this house is not mine; it was founded 
for You; now that there is no one to take care of its affairs, You, 
Your Majesty, must do so." I remained as at ease and undis- 
turbed as I would have if the whole world had been taking care 
of the business for me, and I immediately felt it was in safe hands. 

18. A very good servant of God, a priest, 20 who always 
helped me and was eager about everything regarding perfection, 
went to the royal council to take part in the negotiations and 
worked very hard. And that saintly gentlemen, whom I men- 
tioned, 21 did a great deal in this matter and helped in every 
way. He suffered a lot of trials and persecution, and always in 
everything I esteemed him as a father and still do now. The Lord 
gave so much fervor to those who helped us that each one con- 
sidered the matter to be as much a part of them as it would if 


St. Teresa of Avila 

their life and honor depended on it, and they didn't think of it 
as anything else than something by which the Lord was served. 
It seemed clear that His Majesty helped the master I mention- 
ed, 22 that cleric who was also one of those who helped me a 
great deal and whom the bishop made his representative in a 
large meeting that was held. He stood alone against everyone 
and finally appeased them by suggesting certain procedures 
through which time was gained; but none of the procedures was 
sufficient to keep them from soon returning to the question of 
suppressing the foundation as though its suppression were a mat- 
ter of life and death, as the saying goes. This servant of God 
I'm speaking of officiated at the clothing ceremony and reserved 
the Blessed Sacrament in the new monastery; he was the victim 
of much persecution. This assault lasted almost half a year; to 
tell in detail the great trials they suffered would take a long time. 

19. I was startled by what the devil stirred up against a few 
poor little women and how everyone thought — I mean those 
opposed — that this house would be so harmful to the city. There 
were only twelve women and the prioress (for there were to be 
no more); and they were living such a strict life. If the house 
were harmful or a mistake, it would be so for these women; but 
that it would be harmful to the city didn't make sense. But the 
adversaries found so many reasons for opposing it that they did 
so in good conscience. Finally they came to agree that if it had 
an income they would pass over the matter and let the founda- 
tion continue. I was already so wearied of seeing the hardships 
of all those who were helping me, more so than in seeing my 
own, that it didn't seem to be a bad idea to have an income until 
our adversaries quieted down, and then give it up afterward. 
At other times, wretched and imperfect as I am, I thought that 
perhaps the Lord wanted this since we couldn't succeed without 
it; I was disposed to accept the compromise. 

20. While I was in prayer the night before this matter was 
to be discussed, and I had already begun to agree, the Lord told 
me not to agree, that if in the beginning we accepted an income 
they wouldn't allow us afterward to renounce it, as well as some 
other things. That same night the holy Friar Peter of Alcantara 
appeared to me, for he was already dead. And before he died 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 36 


he had written to me — 23 since he had known about the strong 
opposition and persecution we were undergoing — that he rejoiced 
the foundation was being so vehemently opposed, that that was 
a sign the Lord would be very much served in this monastery 
in that the devil was interfering so much to prevent it, and that 
I should in no way decide to receive an income. And in the letter 
he urged me as much as two or three times not to accept an in- 
come, and that if I followed this advice everything would come 
about as I desired. I had already, two or three times since his 
death, seen him and the great glory he possessed; so I wasn't 
frightened. Rather I rejoiced greatly, for he always appeared 
in his glorified body, filled with great glory; it gave me a powerful 
feeling of glory to see him. I recall that the first time I saw him 
he told me, among other things, about how sublime his joy was 
and how the penance he had performed brought him fortune 
in that he had gained such a reward. 

21. Since I believe I already said something about these 
apparitions, 24 I'm not saying any more than that this time he 
looked severe and told me only that I should by no means 
accept an income and asked why I didn't want to take his 
advice, and disappeared immediately. I was startled, and the 
next day I at once told the gentleman — for he was the one to 
whom 1 had recourse in everything since he was the most involved 
in the project — what took place and that he should by no means 
agree to an income, but that the lawsuit should go forward. He 
was much more convinced about this than I, and very happy. 
Later he told me how reluctantly he had agreed with the 

22. Afterward, when the negotiations were on their way toward 
a settlement, another person, a very zealous servant of God came 
to me saying the matter should be put into the hands of learned 
men. 25 As a result 1 had many worries. Some of those who 
were helping me agreed with this proposal; this snarl in the 
affairs, which was caused by the devil, turned out to be the most 
complicated tangle of all. The Lord helped me in everything, 
for in a summary like this you can't explain all that took place 
in the two years from the time this house was founded to the 
time the litigation ended. This last phase and the first were the 


St. Teresa of Avila 

most laborious. 

23. Well, once the city was placated, the Dominican Father 
Presentado 26 managed to be a great help to us even though he 
wasn't present. But the Lord had brought him at a time very 
opportune for us, and it seemed His Majesty brought him here 
solely for this purpose because this Father told me afterward that 
he had not had any reason to come, but had learned of our need 
by accident. His presence was what was needed. After he had 
departed again, he tried in several ways to get our Father Pro- 
vincial to give me and some others with me permission to come 
to this house to recite the Divine Office and teach it to those 
who were here, for it seemed almost impossible that the provin- 
cial would give it so quickly. The day that we came was one 
of greatest consolation for me. 

24. Before entering the new monastery, while in prayer out- 
side in the church, being almost in rapture, I saw Christ who 
seemed to be receiving me with great love and placing a crown 
on my head and thanking me for what I did for His Mother. 

Another time while all were at prayer in choir after compline, 
I saw our Lady in the greatest glory clothed in a white mantle; 
it seemed she was sheltering us all under it. I understood how 
high a degree of glory the Lord would give to those living in 
this house. 

25. Once the liturgical Offices were initiated the people began 
to grow very devoted to this house. More nuns were accepted, 
and the Lord started to inspire our most vigorous persecutors 
to show us much favor; and they gave us alms. So they approved 
of what they had so greatly disapproved. Little by little they aban- 
doned the lawsuit and said that now they knew the house was 
a work of God since in spite of so much opposition His Majesty 
desired the foundation to go forward. And there isn't anyone 
at present who doesn't think it was right to let the house be 
founded. Thus they are so careful about providing us with alms 
that, without our asking or begging from anyone, the Lord stirs 
them to send alms to us. We get along without any lack of 
necessities, and I hope in the Lord things will always be like this. 
Since the nuns are few in number, if they do what they are 
obliged to, as His Majesty now gives them the grace to do, I 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 36 


am sure they won't lack anything or have need to be anxious 
or to importune anyone. The Lord will take care of them as He 
has up to now. 

26. It is the most wonderful consolation for me to be able to 
live with souls so detached. Their conversation is about how they 
can make progress in the service of God. Solitude is their com- 
fort, and the thought of seeing others (when doing so is not a 
help toward an enkindling within them of a greater love of their 
Spouse) is a burden to them even though these others may be 
relatives. As a result no one comes to this house save those who 
speak about this love, for otherwise neither are the nuns satisfied 
nor are their visitors. Their language allows them to speak only 
of God, and so they only understand one who speaks the same 
language; nor would they in turn be understood by anyone who 
doesn't. We observe the rule of our Lady of Mt. Carmel and 
keep it without mitigation as ordained by the Friar Cardinal 
Hugo of Saint Sabina and given in 1248, in the fifth year of the 
pontificate of Pope Innocent IV. 27 

27. It seems to me that all the trials suffered were well worth 
it. Now, although there is some austerity because meat is never 
eaten without necessity and there is an eight-month fast and other 
things, as are seen in the first rule, this is still in many respects 
considered small by the Sisters; and they have other observances 
which seemed to us necessary in order to observe the rule with 
greater perfection. I hope in the Lord that what has been begun 
will prosper, as His Majesty has told me it would. 

28. The other house that the beata I mentioned 28 was trying 
to found was also favored by the Lord. It was established in 
Alcala, and there was no lack of strong opposition to her; nor 
did she fail to suffer great trials. I know that full religious observ- 
ance is kept there in conformity with this first rule of ours. May 
it please the Lord that all be to His glory and praise and to that 
of the glorious Virgin Mary, whose habit we wear, amen. 

29. I believe your Reverence 29 will be annoyed by the long 
account I've given of this monastery, but it is very short in com- 
parison with the many trials we suffered and the wonders the 
Lord has worked for it. There are many witnesses who are able 
to swear to these marvels, and so I beg your Reverence for the 


St. Teresa of Avila 

love of God that if you think you should tear up what else is 
written here you preserve whatever pertains to this monastery. 
And when I'm dead, give it to the Sisters who live here that when 
those who are to come see the many things His Majesty arranged 
for its establishment by means of so wretched and dreadful a 
thing as myself they might be greatly encouraged to serve God 
and strive that what has been begun may not collapse but always 

Since the Lord has desired so particularly to show His favor 
toward the establishment of this house, it seems to me that one 
would be doing a great wrong and would be punished by God 
were one to begin to mitigate the way of perfection that the Lord 
has initiated here and so favored that it can be borne with such 
great ease; it is very clearly seen to be bearable and can be carried 
out calmly. The main disposition required for always living in 
this calm is the desire to rejoice solely in Christ, one's Spouse. 
This is what they must always have as their aim: to be alone 
with Him alone. And there should be no more than thirteen in 
the house, 30 for after much advice I have learned that this is a 
fitting number; and I've also found it out through experience. 
To live the spiritual life as we do, as well as from alms, without 
begging, does not allow for a larger number. Let them always 
have greater trust in the one who through many trials and the 
prayer of many persons strove for what would be better. And 
by the great happiness and joy and small amount of hardship 
we have had during these years spent in this house, in which 
we find that all of us have had much better health than usual, 
it is obvious that this number is what is fitting. Those who think 
the life harsh should blame their own lack of spirituality and not 
what is observed here, for they should be able to live it since 
persons who are sickly or have delicate health live it with such 
ease; they should go to another monastery where they can be 
saved in a way comformable to their own spirituality. 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 37 


Chapter 37 

Discusses the effects of a certain favor the Lord granted her. Some very 
good doctrine accompanies this discussion. Tells how one should strive 
for a greater degree of glory, and esteem it highly, and that we shouldn't 
neglect everlasting goods for any difficulty. 

IT IS HARD FOR ME to say more than I've already said 
about the favors the Lord has granted me, 1 and it is already 
too much for anyone to believe that He granted them to so dread- 
ful a person. But to obey the Lord, who commanded me to do 
so, and your Reverences, 2 I will say something to give Him 
glory. May it please His Majesty that some soul may benefit 
by seeing that the Lord has desired to favor a thing so miserable. 
(What will He grant to one who has truly served Him?) May 
all be encouraged to please His Majesty since even in this life 
He bestows tokens like these of His love. 

2. First, it must be understood that in these favors the Lord 
grants to the soul there can be either more or less glory. For 
in some visions the glory, delight, and consolation so surpass 
what is given in others that I am amazed the difference in 
rejoicing can be so great, even in this life. The difference in a 
delight and favor God gives in a vision or rapture can be so great 
that it seems impossible that there could be anything more to 
desire here below, and so the soul doesn't desire or ask for any 
more happiness. Since the time the Lord showed me how great 
the difference is in heaven between the joy of some and the joy 
of others, I have seen clearly that also here on earth the Lord 
has no measure in giving when He is pleased to do so. Thus 
I wouldn't want to use any measure in my service of His Majes- 
ty and in employing all my life and strength and health to this 
end. I wouldn't want to lose through my own fault as much as 
one tiny particle of greater glory. So I say that if I were to be 
asked which I prefer, either to bear all the trials of the world 
until its end and afterward ascend to a little more glory or without 
any trials to descend to a little bit less, I would very eagerly choose 
all the trials for a little more of rejoicing in the knowledge of 


St. Teresa of Avila 

God's grandeurs; I see that whoever understands Him more loves 
and praises Him more. 

3. I don't say that were I even in the lowest place in heaven 
I wouldn't be very happy and consider myself very fortunate to 
be there. Since I have deserved the lowest place in hell, the Lord 
would be showing me great mercy in bringing me to heaven; 
may it please His Majesty that I go there and that He not look 
upon my great sins. What I am saying is that if I could and if 
the Lord gave me the grace to work hard, I wouldn't want to 
lose anything through my own fault even if avoiding the loss 
were at a very great cost to myself. How wretched I am, for with 
so many sins I had lost everything! 

4. It is also noteworthy that in every favor the Lord granted 
me, whether vision or revelation, my soul gained something; 
through some visions it gained a great deal. The vision of Christ 
left upon me an impression of His most extraordinary beauty, 
and the impression remains today; one time is sufficient to make 
this imprint. How much deeper it becomes as the Lord grants 
this favor more often! The benefit I received was most advan- 
tageous, and this is what it consisted of: I had a serious fault 
that did me much harm; it was that when I began to know that 
certain persons like me, and I found them attractive, I became 
so attached that my memory was bound strongly by the thought 
of them. There was no intention to offend God, but I was happy 
to see these persons and think about them and about the good 
things I saw in them. This was something so harmful it was 
leading my soul seriously astray. After I beheld the extraordinary 
beauty of the Lord, I didn't see anyone who in comparison with 
Him seemed to attract me or occupy my thoughts. By turning 
my gaze just a little inward to behold the image I have in my 
soul, I obtained such freedom in this respect that everything I 
see here below seems loathsome when compared to the excel- 
ling and beautiful qualities I beheld in this Lord. There is no 
knowledge or any kind of gift that I think could amount to 
anything when placed alongside of what it is to hear just one 
word spoken from that divine mouth; how much more so when 
the words are so many. I hold that it would be impossible for 
me (provided the Lord would not permit that, on account of 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 37 


my sins, this impression be erased from my memory) to be so 
occupied with the thought of anyone that I couldn't free myself 
from it by only a slight effort to remember this Lord. 

5. I experienced this freedom in the case of one of my con- 
fessors. Since I believe that my confessors stand so truly in the 
place of God, I think they are the ones for whom I feel the most 
benevolence. Since I am always very fond of those who guide 
my soul and since I felt secure, I showed them that I liked them. 
They, as God-fearing servants of the Lord, were afraid lest in 
any way I would become attached and bound to this love, even 
though in a holy way, and they showed me their displeasure. 
This happened after I became so subject to obeying them, for 
before that I didn't experience this love. I laughed to myself to 
see how mistaken they were, although I didn't always express 
so clearly how little attached I was to anyone. But I assured them; 
and as they got to know me better they realized what I owed 
to the Lord, for these suspicions they had about me always came 
at the beginning of our acquaintance. 

A much greater love for and confidence in this Lord began 
to develop in me when I saw Him as one with whom I could 
converse so continually. I saw that He was man, even though 
He was God; that He wasn't surprised by human weaknesses; 
that He understands our miserable make-up, subject to many 
falls on account of the first sin which He came to repair. I can 
speak with Him as with a friend, even though He is Lord. I know 
that He isn't like those we have as lords here on earth, all of 
whose lordship consists in artificial displays: they have to have 
designated times for speaking and designated persons to whom 
they speak. If some poor little creature has any business matter 
to take up, what roundabout ways they must go through and 
what trials and favors it costs them in order to get to speak to 
this lord! Oh, and if it is with the king! Then, people who are 
poor or those who don't belong to the nobility can't even get near; 
but they must ask those who are the court minions. And most 
assuredly these latter are not persons who have trampled the 
world underfoot, for those who have, speak the truth since they 
know no fear, nor are they obligated to anyone. Such people 
are not for the palace, for there you mustn't speak out but be 


St. Teresa of Avila 

silent about what appears to be wrong; you mustn't even dare 
think about it if you dont' want to fall into disfavor. 

6. O King of Glory and Lord of all kings! How true that Your 
kingdom is not armed with trifles, since it has no end! How true 
that there is no need for intermediaries with You! Upon 
beholding Your person one sees immediately that You alone, 
on account of the majesty You reveal, merit to be called Lord. 
There's no need for people in waiting or for guards in order that 
one know that You are King. Here on earth, if a king were all 
by himself, he would fail to be recognized. However much he 
would want to be recognized as king, he wouldn't be believed; 
he would have no more to show than anyone else. It's necessary 
that one see the reason for believing he is a king, and that is 
the purpose of these artificial displays. If he didn't have them, 
no one would esteem him at all; the appearance of power doesn't 
come from him. It is from others that his display of grandeur 
must come. 

O my Lord! O my King! Who now would know how to repre- 
sent Your majesty! It's impossible not to see that You in Yourself 
are a great Emperor, for to behold Your majesty is startling; 
and the more one beholds along with this majesty, Lord, Your 
humility and the love You show to someone like myself the more 
startling it becomes. Nevertheless, we can converse and speak 
with You as we like, once the first fright and fear in beholding 
Your majesty passes; although the fear of offending You becomes 
greater. But the fear is not one of punishment, for this punish- 
ment is considered nothing in comparison with losing You. 

7. These are the benefits deriving from this vision, besides 
other great ones it leaves in the soul. If the vision is from God 
it is known through its effects — when the soul is in light. Since 
the Lord often, as I mentioned, 3 wants it to be in darkness and 
not see this light, it is not surprising that one as wretched as 
I be afraid. It happened just now that for eight days it seemed 
there wasn't any knowledge in me — nor could I acquire any — 
of what I owed God, or any remembrance of His favors; my 
soul was in a terrible stupor and in I don't know what kind of 
condition, nor do I know how it got that way. It wasn't having 
bad thoughts, but it was so incapable of good thoughts that I 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 37 


laughed at myself. It pleased me to see the weakness of a soul 
when God is not always working in it. I saw clearly that in this 
state the soul is not without Him, for this trial is not like the 
great ones I mentioned I sometimes have. 4 But even though 
the soul puts wood on the fire and does this little it can do of 
itself, the fire of love does not burn. It is through His great mercy 
that it sees at least the smoke so as to know that the fire is not 
entirely dead. The Lord returns to rekindle it. For even though 
a soul breaks its head in arranging the wood and blowing on 
the fire, it seems that everything it does only smothers the fire 
more. I believe the best thing for it to do is to surrender itself 
completely to the fact that of itself it can do nothing and to become 
occupied, as I said, 5 in some other meritorious works. For 
perhaps the Lord removes the prayer so that it might undertake 
these works and come to know through experience how little it 
can do by itself. 

8. Indeed, I took delight in the Lord today and dared to com- 
plain of His Majesty, and I said to Him: "How is it, my God, 
that it's not enough that You keep me in this miserable life and 
that for love of You I undergo it and desire to live where 
everything hinders the enjoyment of You, in that I have to eat 
and sleep and carry on business and talk with everyone (and 
I suffer all for love of You, as You well know, my Lord, because 
it's the greatest torment for me); how is it that when there is 
so little time left over to enjoy Your presence You hide from 
me? How is this compatible with Your mercy? How can the love 
You bear me allow this? I believe, Lord, that if it were possible 
for me to hide from You as it is for You to hide from me that 
the love You have for me would not suffer it; but You are with 
me and see me always. Don't tolerate this, my Lord! I implore 
You to see that it is injurious to one who loves You so much." 

9. These and other things it occurred to me to say, while 
understanding first how lenient the punishment reserved for me 
in hell was in comparison with the place I deserved. But 
sometimes love becomes so foolish I don't make sense; with my 
whole mind I make these complaints, and the Lord puts up with 
it all. May so good a King be praised! We wouldn't dare say 
these things to earthly kings! Yet I'm not surprised that one 


St. Teresa of Avila 

doesn't dare speak to the king or to his representatives, for there 
is reason for fear. The world is such that we would have to have 
longer lives — if some part of our lives is going to be spent in 
serving God — to learn all the nice points and new rules and prac- 
tices of etiquette. I bless myself when I observe what is going 
on. The fact is that when I entered this monastery of St. Joseph 
I still didn't know how to live. It's no laughing matter when there 
is some carelessness in dealing with people who deserve much 
more. They, indeed, take it as such an affront that it becomes 
necessary to show proof of your good intentions, if there is, as 
I say, some carelessness; even then please God they will believe 

10. I repeat that indeed I didn't know how to live. Here is 
a poor tired soul: it sees how they command her to keep her 
thoughts always on God and they insist it is necessary to do this 
in order to free oneself from many dangers; on the other hand 
it sees it mustn't miss any fine points in the world's rules of eti- 
quette lest it become an occasion of temptation to those whose 
reputations are based on these details. These rules weary me, and 
I was never done excusing myself, because I couldn't help — 
even though I studied the matter — but to make many mistakes. 
For, as I say, in the world these mistakes are not taken lightly. 
And is it true that religious who should be held excused in these 
matters are in fact excused? No, it is not; it is said that 
monasteries must be schools of etiquette and that these things 
should be known. I for one certainly cannot understand this. 
I have thought that some saint said the monastery should be a 
school for the instruction of those wanting to be courtiers in 
heaven — and this has all been understood backward. It is right 
for anyone who cares about heaven to have a continual solicitude 
about pleasing God and despising the world. It is beyond me 
how anyone can have so much concern about pleasing those who 
live in the world by means such as these, which are so changeable. 
If you could learn the rules once and for all, you could let the 
matter pass. But just for the titles of address on a letter there's 
need for a university chair, so to speak, to lecture on how it's 
to be done. For sometimes you have to leave a margin on this 
side of the page, sometimes on the other; and someone who's 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 38 


not usually addressed as magnifico must be then addressed as 

11. I don't know how it's all going to end up; even though 
I'm not yet fifty, I've already seen so many changes I don't even 
know how to live anymore. What will they do who are now being 
born and will live for many years? I surely pity spiritual people 
who are obliged for certain holy reasons to live in the world; 
it is a terrible cross they must bear with all these rules of etiquette. 
If you could reach an agreement with everyone and become ig- 
norant in this science and desire that others consider you to be 
so, you would be freed from a lot of troubles. 

12. But what foolishness I've got into! Wanting to speak of 
God's grandeurs, I've ended up speaking about petty worldly 
things. Since the Lord has granted me the favor to abandon this 
world, I want to go forth from it. Let those who love such trivial 
things attend to them. Please God that in the next life, which 
will be without change, we shall not have to pay for this. Amen. 

Chapter 38 

Deals with some great favors the Lord granted her by showing her certain 
heavenly secrets, and with other great visions and revelations that His 
Majesty wanted her to see. Tells of the effects they had on her and of the 
great profit her soul derived from them. 

ONE NIGHT, BEING SO ILL that I wanted to excuse 
myself from mental prayer, I took my rosary in order to 
occupy myself in vocal prayer. I tried not to recollect my in- 
tellect, even though externally I was recollected in the oratory. 
When the Lord desires, these devices are of little avail. I was 
doing this for only a short while when a spiritual rapture came 
upon me so forcefully that I had no power to resist it. It seemed 
to me I was brought into heaven, and the first persons I saw 
there were my father and mother. I saw things so marvelous — 
in as short a time as it takes to recite a Hail Mary — that I in- 
deed remained outside myself; the experience seemed to me too 


St. Teresa of Avila 

great a favor. I say it lasted a short time, but perhaps it took 
a little longer; the impression is that the time was very short. 
I feared lest the experience be some illusion, although it didn't 
seem so to me. I didn't know what to do, because I was very 
ashamed to go to my confessor about this. I don't think the shame 
was from humility, but I thought he would make fun of me and 
say: Oh, what a St. Paul you are, or a St. Jerome, 1 that you 
see heavenly things! And that these glorious saints experienced 
similar things made me more afraid. I did nothing but weep a 
great deal, for I didn't think there was any basis for my having 
such an experience. Finally, however much I disliked doing so, 
I went to my confessor; I never dared to remain silent about 
such things — however much I regretted having to speak of 
them — on account of the great fear I had of being deceived. Since 
he saw I was so anxious, he consoled me very much and said 
many kind things in order to free me from my troubled feelings. 

2. As time went on, it happened — and continues to happen 
sometimes — that the Lord showed me greater secrets. There is 
no way in which the soul can see more than what is manifested, 
nor is this possible; so my soul never saw more than what the 
Lord wanted to show it each time. What He revealed was so 
great that the least part of it would have been sufficient to leave 
me marveling and very proficient in considering and judging 
all the things of life as little. I should like to be able to explain 
something about the least of what I came to know; and in think- 
ing about how this can be done, I find that it is impossible. In 
just the difference between the light we see and the one 
represented there, although all is light, there is no comparison; 
next to that light the sun's brilliance seems to be something very 
blurred. In sum, the imagination, however keen it may be, 
cannot paint or sketch what this light is like, or any of the things 
the Lord gave me knowledge of. He bestows along with this 
knowledge a delight so sublime as to be indescribable, for all 
the senses rejoice to such a high degree and in such sweetness 
that the delight cannot be exaggerated — so it's better not to say 
any more. 

3. Once, for more than an hour, since it doesn't seem to me 
that He left my side, the Lord was showing me admirable things 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 38 


in this way. He said to me: "See, daughter, what those who are 
against me lose; don't neglect to tell them." Ah, my Lord, if Your 
Majesty doesn't give them light, what little benefit will what I 
say bring to those whose deeds blind them! Some persons to 
whom You have given light will profit from knowing about Your 
grandeurs; but I don't think anyone who sees they are revealed 
to someone as dreadful and wretched as myself will believe me. 
May Your name and mercy be blessed, because at least in myself 
I have seen a recognizable improvement. Afterward I wanted 
to remain in this state always and not return to everyday living, 
for the contempt that was left in me for everything earthly was 
great; these things all seemed to me like dung, and I see how 
basely we are occupied, those of us who are detained by earthly 

4. Once, when I was with that lady I mentioned, I was ill with 
heart sickness; as I said my heart trouble was severe. 2 although 
it isn't now. Since she was very charitable, she gave orders that 
I be shown some of her jewels of gold and precious stone that 
were very valuable, especially one of the diamonds that was ap- 
praised highly. She thought they would make me happy. Recall- 
ing what the Lord has kept for us, I was laughing to myself and 
feeling pity at the sight of what people esteem. And I thought 
of how impossible it would be for me, even if I tried, to esteem 
those things if the Lord didn't remove from my memory the 
things He had shown me. In this way the soul has great domi- 
nion, so great that I don't know whether anyone who doesn't 
possess this dominion will understand it. It is the detachment 
proper and natural to us because it comes without labor on our 
part. God does it all, for His Majesty shows these truths in such 
a way, and they are so imprinted in the soul, that it is seen clearly 
we couldn't acquire them by ourselves in this way and in so short 
a time. 

5. Likewise, little fear of death, which I always feared greatly 
remained. Now death seems to me to be the easiest thing for 
anyone who serves God, for in a moment the soul finds it is freed 
from this prison and brought to rest. I think these raptures in 
which God carries away the spirit and reveals to it such excellent 
things are like the departure of the soul from the body, for in 


St. Teresa of Avila 

an instant these good things are seen all together. Let us omit 
any word about the pains suffered when soul and body are torn 
from each other, for little attention should be paid to them. And 
the death of those who truly love God and have despised the 
things of this life must be more gentle. 

6. These revelations also helped me very much, I think, in 
coming to know our true country and realizing that we are 
pilgrims here below; it is a wonderful thing to see what is there 
and know where we shall live. For if someone has to go to live 
permanently in another country, it is a great help to them in 
undergoing the struggle of the journey to have seen that it is 
a land where they will be very much at ease. These revelations 
are also a great help for reflecting on heavenly things and striv- 
ing that our conversation be there; these things are done with 
ease. Doing them is very beneficial; merely to look toward heaven 
recollects the soul, for since the Lord desired to reveal something 
of what is there, the soul concentrates on it. It happens to me 
sometimes that those who I know live there are my companions 
and the ones in whom I find comfort; it seems to me that they 
are the ones who are truly alive and that those who live here 
on earth are so dead that not even the whole world, I think, 
affords me company, especially when I experience those impulses. 

7. Everything I see with my bodily eyes seems to be a dream 
and a mockery. What I have already seen with the eyes of my 
soul is what I desire; and since it is seen as something far away, 
this life is a death. In sum, the favor the Lord grants to whomever 
He gives visions like these is extraordinary. They are a great 
help, especially in bearing a heavy cross; since nothing satisfies 
the soul, everything causes displeasure. And if the Lord didn't 
allow that sometimes the favor be forgotten, even though it again 
comes to mind, I don't know how one could live. May He be 
blessed and praised forever and ever! May it please His Majesty, 
by the blood His Son shed for me, since He has desired that 
I understand something of so many great blessings and in some 
way begin to enjoy them, that what happened to Lucifer, who 
through his own fault lost everything, may not happen to me. 
May He because of who He is not allow it, for I have no small 
fear sometimes; although, on the other hand, and very habitually, 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 38 


God's mercy makes me feel safe. Since He has freed me from 
so many sins, He will not want to let me out of His hands to 
go astray. This I beg your Reverence always to beg of Him. 

8. The favors mentioned are not as great, in my opinion, as 
the one I shall now speak of, and this for many reasons and on 
account of the great blessings and remarkable fortitude of soul 
it left in me; although each favor when looked at in itself is so 
great it is beyond comparison. 

9. One day on the vigil of Pentecost I went to a secluded spot 
after Mass where I often prayed, and I began to read about this 
feast in a volume by the Carthusian. 5 Reading of the signs 
beginners, proficients, and the perfect must have in order to 
recognize whether the Holy Spirit is with them, it seemed to 
me that by the goodness of God and insofar as I could make 
out He was not failing to be with me. I praised Him and 
remembered that once before when I read the passage I really 
lacked everything; I had realized this very clearly, just as now 
I understood the opposite about myself. So I knew that what 
the Lord had granted me was a great favor. Thus I began to 
consider the place I had merited in hell on account of my sins, 
and I gave much praise to God because it didn't seem I recognized 
my soul by the change I saw. While I was reflecting on this, 
a great impulse came upon me without my understanding the 
reason. It seemed my soul wanted to leave my body because it 
didn't fit there nor could it wait for so great a good. The impulse 
was so extreme I couldn't help myself, and it was, in my opi- 
nion, different from previous impulses; nor did my soul know 
what had happened, nor what it wanted, so stirred up was it. 
Although I was seated, I tried to lean against the wall because 
my natural power was completely gone. 

10. While in this state I saw a dove over my head. It was very 
different from doves on earth since it didn't have earthly feathers, 
but the wings had little shells that gave off great brilliance. It 
was larger than a dove. It seems to me I heard the noise it made 
with its wings. It fluttered about for the space of a Hail Mary. 
My soul was already in such a condition that in losing itself it 
lost sight of the dove. The spirit was quieted by so good a guest; 
for, in my opinion, a marvelous favor like this should have 


St. Teresa of Avila 

frightened and disturbed it. And when it began to enjoy the guest, 
the fear was taken away and the joyous quietude began while 
the soul continued in rapture. 

11. The glory of this rapture was extraordinary. I remained 
for the rest of Pentecost so stupefied and stunned I didn't know 
what to do with myself, or how I had the capacity for so great 
a favor and gift. I neither heard nor saw, so to speak, but ex- 
perienced wonderful interior joy. I noted from that day the 
greatest improvement in myself brought about by a more sublime 
love of God and much stronger virtues. May He be blessed and 
praised forever, amen. 

12. One other time I saw the same dove over the head of a 
Dominican Father, 4 except that I think the rays and splendor 
of the same wings extended much further. It was made known 
to me that he would draw souls to God. 

13. At another time I saw our Lady placing a very white mantle 
on the presentado, from this Dominican order, of whom I have 
sometimes spoken. 5 She told me that, because of the service he 
had rendered her in helping toward the foundation of this house, 
she gave him that mantle as a sign that she would keep his soul 
spotless from then on and that he would not fall into mortal sin. 
I am certain that so it was. For a few years later he died, and 
his death and the life he lived were so penitential, and the death 
was so holy, that insofar as one can know there is no reason for 
doubt. A friar who was present at his death told me that before 
this dying Father expired he told this friar about how St. Thomas 
was with him. He died with great joy and desire to leave this 
exile. Afterward he at times appeared to me in resplendent glory 
and told me some things. His prayer had reached such a degree 
that at the time of his death when he wanted to avoid mental 
prayer because of his great weakness, he couldn't on account 
of his many raptures. He wrote to me a little before he died asking 
what he should do, because when he finished saying Mass he 
often went into rapture without being able to prevent it. God 
in the end rewarded him for the great service he had rendered 
Him throughout his whole life. 

14. I saw some of the wonderful favors the Lord bestowed 
on the rector of the Society of Jesus whom I have mentioned 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 38 


at times. 6 So as not to make this too long I will not put them 
down here. Once a severe trial came upon him in which he was 
very persecuted and found himself in deep affliction. One day, 
while I was hearing Mass, at the elevation of the host, I saw 
Christ on the cross. He spoke some words of consolation that 
I was to tell this rector and some other words foretelling what 
was to come and reminding the rector of what Christ suffered 
for him and announcing that he should prepare himself to suf- 
fer. This gave the rector great consolation and courage, and 
everything came about afterward as the Lord had told me. 

15.1 saw great things concerning members of the order (of 
the whole order together) that this Father belonged to, that is, 
of the Society of Jesus. I saw them in heaven, sometimes with 
white banners in their hands, and, as I say, other very admirable 
things about them. Thus I hold this order in great veneration, 
for I've had many dealings with them and I see that their lives 
are in conformity with what the Lord has made known to me 
about them. 

16. One night while I was in prayer the Lord began to speak 
some words by which he made me remember how bad my life 
had been, and these words filled me with shame and grief. 
Although they were not severe, they caused consuming sorrow 
and pain. More improvement in self-knowledge is felt from one 
of these words than would be got from many days of reflection 
on our wretchedness, for it engraves on us an undeniable truth. 
He brought before me the extremely vain friendships I had had 
and told me I should esteem highly the fact that a will that had 
been as badly occupied as mine should desire to be fixed on Him, 
and that He would accept it. 

At other times He told me I should recall the time when, it 
seems, I considered it an honor to go against His will. Again, 
that I should remember what I owed Him, that when I was giv- 
ing Him the hardest blow, He was granting me favors. If I have 
some faults, which are not few, His Majesty gives me an 
understanding of them that, it seems, reduces me to nothing; 
and since I have many, this happens often. It happened to me 
that, after having been reprimanded by my confessor, I desired 
to find consolation in prayer; and found there the true reprimand. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

17. To return, then, to what I was saying; 7 since the Lord 
had begun to recall to me my wretched life and since I hadn't 
done anything, in my opinion, I wondered, in the midst of tears, 
if He desired to grant me some favor. It ordinarily happens when 
I receive some favor from the Lord that I am first humbled within 
myself so that I might see more clearly how far I am from deserv- 
ing favors; I think the Lord must do this. After a short while 
my spirit was so enraptured it seemed to me to be almost en- 
tirely out of the body — at least the spirit isn't aware that it is 
living in the body. I saw the most sacred humanity with more 
extraordinary glory than I had ever seen. It was made manifest 
to me through a knowledge admirable and clear that the humani- 
ty was taken into the bosom of the Father. I wouldn't know how 
to describe the nature of this, because, without my seeing 
anything, it seemed to me I was in the presence of the Divinity. 
My amazement was such that I think for several days I couldn't 
return to myself; and it always seemed to me that I went about 
in the presence of that majesty of the Son of God, although the 
experience wasn't the same as when it first happened. This I 
understood clearly, but the vision is so strongly engraved on the 
imagination that no matter how short a while it lasts the im- 
pression left cannot be removed for some time; and the impres- 
sion is very consoling and beneficial. 

18.1 saw this same vision three other times. It is in my opinion 
the most sublime vision the Lord granted me the favor of see- 
ing, and it bears along with it marvelous benefits. It seems it 
purifies the soul in an extraordinary way and removes almost 
entirely the strength of this sensitive part of our nature. It is a 
great flame that seems to burn away and annihilate all of life's 
desires. For even though, glory to God, I didn't have any desires 
for vain things, it was made clear to me in this experience how 
everything was vanity. How vain, how truly vain are the lord- 
ships of earth! It is a powerful lesson for raising one's desires 
to pure truth. There is impressed upon one a reverence I wouldn't 
know how to speak of; for it is very different from the kind we 
can acquire here on earth. Great fear is caused in the soul when 
it sees how it dared, or how anyone can dare, to offend so extra- 
ordinary a majesty. 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 38 


19.1 have sometimes mentioned these effects of visions as well 
as other things about them, and I have already said that the 
benefit can be greater or less. 8 The benefit coming from this 
vision is extremely great. When I approached to receive 
Communion and recalled that extraordinary majesty I had seen 
and considered that it was present in the Blessed Sacrament (the 
Lord often desires that I behold it in the host), my hair stood 
on end; the whole experience seemed to annihilate me. O my 
Lord! If You did not hide Your grandeur, who would approach 
so often a union of something so dirty and miserable with such 
great majesty! May the angels and all creatures praise You, for 
You so measure things in accordance with our weakness that 
when we rejoice in Your sovereign favors Your great power does 
not so frighten us that, as weak and wretched people, we would 
not dare enjoy them. 

20. What once happened to a peasant could happen to us, 
and I know that this really happened. He found a treasure that 
was worth more than his lowly frame of mind was capable of 
handling, and the possession of it caused such sadness to come 
upon him that, from pure affliction and worry over not know- 
ing what to do with the treasure, he gradually died. If he hadn't 
found it all at once, but if it had been given to him little by little 
in order to sustain him, since he was poor, he would have lived 
more happily and it wouldn't have cost him his life. 

21. O Wealth of the poor, how admirably You know how to 
sustain souls! And without their seeing such great wealth, You 
show it to them little by little. When I behold majesty as extra- 
ordinary as this concealed in something as small as the host, it 
happens afterward that I marvel at wisdom so wonderful, and 
I fail to know how the Lord gives me the courage or strength 
to approach Him. If He who has granted, and still does grant 
me so many favors, did not give this strength, it would be im- 
possible to conceal the fact or resist shouting aloud about marvels 
so great. For what will a wretched person, like myself, who is 
weighed down with abominations and who has wasted her life 
with so little fear of God, feel when she sees she is approaching 
this Lord of such powerful majesty and that this Lord desires 
that the soul behold it? How will a mouth that has spoken so 


St. Teresa of Avila 

many words against this very Lord be united with that most 
glorious body, which abounds in purity and compassion? For 
the love that face shows, so beautiful in its tenderness and af- 
fability, makes the soul much more sorrowful and afflicted for 
not having served Him than does the majesty it beholds in Him 
cause it to fear. But how could I have experienced twice what 
I saw and am about to describe ? q 

22. Certainly, my Lord and my glory, I am about to say that 
in some way in these great afflictions my soul feels I have done 
something in Your service. Alas! I don't know what I'm saying 
to myself, because almost without my uttering this I'm already 
putting it down in writing. I find I'm disturbed and somewhat 
outside myself since I have brought these things back to mind. 
If this sentiment had come from me, I might truly have said 
that I had done something for You, my Lord; but since there 
can be no good thought if You do not give it, there's no reason 
to be thankful to myself. I am the debtor, Lord, and You the 
offended one. 

23. Once, while approaching to receive Communion, I saw 
with my soul's eyes more clearly than with my bodily eyes two 
devils whose appearance was abominable. It seems to me their 
horns were wrapped around the poor priest's throat, and in the 
host that was going to be given to me I saw my Lord with the 
majesty I mentioned placed in the priest's hands, which were 
clearly seen to be His offender's; and I understood that that soul 
was in mortal sin. What would it be, my Lord, to see Your beauty 
in the midst of such abominable figures? They were as though 
frightened and terrified in Your presence, for it seems they would 
have very eagerly fled had You allowed them. This vision caused 
me such great disturbance I don't know how I was able to receive 
Communion, and I was left with a great fear, thinking that if 
the vision had been from God, His Majesty would not have per- 
mitted me to see the evil that was in that soul. The Lord Himself 
told me to pray for him and that He had permitted it so that 
I might understand the power of the words of consecration and 
how God does not fail to be present, however evil the priest who 
recites them, and that I might see His great goodness since He 
places Himself in those hands of His enemy, and all out of love 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 38 


for me and for everyone. I understood well how much more 
priests are obliged to be good than are others, how deplorable 
a thing it is to receive this most Blessed Sacrament unworthily, 
and how much the devil is lord over the soul in mortal sin. It 
did me a great deal of good and brought me deep understanding 
of what I owed God. May He be blessed forever and ever. 

24. At another time something else happened to me that 
frightened me very much. I was at a place where a certain person 
died who for many years had lived a wicked life, from what I 
knew. But he had been sick for two years, and in some things 
it seems he had made amends. He died without confession, but 
nevertheless it didn't seem to me he would be condemned. While 
the body was being wrapped in its shroud, I saw many devils 
take that body; and it seemed they were playing with it and 
punishing it. This terrified me, for with large hooks they were 
dragging it from one devil to the other. Since I saw it buried 
with the honor and ceremonies accorded to all, I reflected on 
the goodness of God, how He did not want that soul to be de- 
famed, but wanted the fact that it was His enemy to be concealed. 

25. I was half stupefied from what I had seen. During the whole 
ceremony I didn't see another devil. Afterward when they put 
the body in the grave, there was such a multitude of them inside 
ready to take it that I was frantic at the sight of it, and there 
was need for no small amount of courage to conceal this. I 
reflected on what they would do to the soul when they had such 
dominion over the unfortunate body. May it please the Lord 
that what I have seen — a thing so frightful! — will be seen by all 
those who are in such an evil state; I think it would prove a 
powerful help toward their living a good life. All of this gives 
me greater knowledge of what I owe God and of what He freed 
me from. I was very frightened until I spoke about it to my 
confessor, wondering if it was an illusion caused by the devil 
to defame that soul, although it wasn't considered to be the soul 
of someone with a very deep Christian spirit. Truly since the 
vision was not an illusion, it frightens me every time I think of it. 

26. Now that I have begun to speak of some visions of the 
dead, I want to mention certain happenings in which the Lord 
in this regard was pleased that I see some souls. I shall mention 


St. Teresa of Avila 

only a few so as to be brief and because knowing about them 
isn't necessary; I mean for anyone's benefit. 

I was told that someone who had been our provincial was dead 
(although when he died he was in another province). I had had 
some dealings with him and was indebted to him for some good 
deeds. 10 He was a person of many virtues. As soon as I learned 
he was dead, I felt much disturbance because I feared for his 
salvation in that he had been a superior for twenty years. Being 
a superior is something I am indeed very afraid of since I think 
having souls in one's charge involves a lot of danger; with much 
anxiety I went to an oratory. I offered up for him all the good 
I had done in my life, which must in fact amount to little, and 
so I asked the Lord to supply from His own merits what was 
necessary for that soul to be freed from purgatory. 

27. While beseeching the Lord for this as best I could, it 
seemed to me that person came out from the depths of the earth 
at my right side and that I saw him ascend to heaven with the 
greatest happiness. He had been well advanced in years, but 
I saw him as only about thirty, or even less I think, and his 
countenance was resplendent. This vision passed very quickly; 
but I was so extremely consoled that his death could never cause 
me any more sorrow, although I saw persons who were filled 
with grief over his loss since he had been generally highly 
esteemed. The consolation my soul experienced was so great I 
couldn't worry about him, nor could I doubt that it was a vision; 
I mean that it was not an illusion. No more than fifteen days 
had passed since his death. However, I didn't neglect to get others 
to pray for him and to pray myself, except that I couldn't do 
so with the eagerness I would have if I hadn't seen this vision. 
When the Lord shows some persons to me in this way and after- 
ward I desire to pray for them to His Majesty, it seems to me, 
without my being able to help it, that doing so is like giving alms 
to the rich. Afterward I learned — for he died quite far from 
here — of the death the Lord had given him; it was so greatly 
edifying, because of the knowledge, tears, and humility with 
which he died, that it left everyone amazed. 

28. One of the nuns in the house who had been a great servant 
of God had been dead a little more than a day and a half. 11 A 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 38 


nun was reciting a reading in the choir from the Office of the 
dead, which was being said for the departed soul, and I was 
standing so as to recite the verse with her. When she was half 
through the reading, I saw the nun who had died; it seemed to 
me her soul had come out at my right side just as in the previous 
case and was going to heaven. This was not an imaginative vision 
as was the former one, but like the others I mentioned; 12 yet 
this kind is as certain as the imaginative visions. 

29. Eighteen or twenty years ago another nun died in the house 
I was in. She had always been sick and been a very good ser- 
vant of God, devoted to her choir duties and most virtuous. I 
thought certainly she would not enter purgatory, because the 
illnesses she had suffered were many, and that she would have 
a surplus of merits. Four hours after her death, while reciting 
the hours of the Office before her burial, I understood she 
departed from purgatory and went to heaven. 

30. While at a college of the Society of Jesus, experiencing 
the great trials in soul and body I said I sometimes go 
through, 13 I was in such a state that I think I wasn't even able 
to receive a good thought. That night a Brother from the Society 
died in that house, 14 and while I was praying for him as I could 
and hearing Mass said for him by another Father of the Society, 
a deep recollection came over me; I saw him ascend to heaven 
in great glory, and the Lord along with him. By special favor 
I understood that it was His Majesty going with him. 

31. Another friar of our order, a truly very good friar, ,} was 
seriously ill; while I was at Mass, I became recollected and saw 
that he was dead and that he ascended to heaven without enter- 
ing purgatory. He died at the hour I saw him, according to what 
I learned later. I was amazed he hadn't entered purgatory. I 
understood that since he was a friar who had observed his vows 
well the Bulls of the order about not entering purgatory were 
beneficial to him. I don't know why I came to understand this. 
It seems to me it must have been because being a friar doesn't 
consist in the habit — I mean in wearing it — but in enjoying the 
state of higher perfection, which is what it means to be a friar. 

32. I don't want to say anything more about these things, for 
as I have said there's no reason for my doing so — ]b although 


St. Teresa of Avila 

there are many things the Lord has granted me the favor of see- 
ing. But of all that I've seen, I haven't known any soul that did 
not enter purgatory, with the exception of the soul of this Father 
and that of the holy Friar Peter of Alcantara and the Dominican 
Father I mentioned. 17 In the case of some, the Lord was 
pleased that I behold the degrees of glory they possess, and he 
showed me the places assigned to them. Great is the difference 
that lies between the glory of some and that of others. 18 

Chapter 39 

Continues on the same subject, telling of the great favors the Lord granted 
her. Treats of how He promised to answer her prayers for other persons. 
Tells of some remarkable instances in which His Majesty granted her this 

sight to a person to whom I was obligated and who had 
almost completely lost his vision, I was very grieved and feared 
that because of my sins the Lord would not hear me. The Lord 
appeared to me as He did at other times 1 and began to show 
me the wound in His left hand, and with the other hand He 
drew out a large nail that had been embedded there. It seemed 
to me that when the nail was pulled out His flesh was torn out 
along with it. The sharp pain was clearly evident, and I felt great 
pity. He told me that He who had suffered that for me should 
not be doubted, but that in a better way He would do what I 
had asked Him; that He had promised me there wasn't anything 
I might ask Him that He wouldn't do; that He already knew 
I wouldn't ask for anything other than what was in conformity 
with His glory; and that thus He would do what I was now re- 
questing; that I should consider that even when I wasn't serv- 
ing Him there wasn't anything I asked for that He didn't grant, 
and in a better way than I knew how to ask for; that how much 
more He would grant my petitions now that he knew I loved 
Him; that I shouldn't doubt this. I don't think eight days passed 
before the Lord gave sight back to that person. My confessor 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 39 


knew of this soon afterward. It could be that this cure didn't come 
about because of my prayer; but since I had seen this vision, 
I felt such certitude that I thanked His Majesty as though the 
favor had been granted to me. 

2. At another time there was a person very sick with a most 
painful illness, which I won't name here because I don't know 
what kind of illness it was. 2 What he suffered for two months 
was unbearable; the torment was lacerating. My confessor, who 
was the rector I mentioned above, 3 went to see him; he took 
great pity on him and told me I should by all means go to see 
him, that since he was a relative of mine I could do this. I went 
and was moved to such pity for him that I began to beg the Lord 
insistently for his health. In this experience I saw fully and clearly 
the favor the Lord granted me; the next day this person was 
completely cured of that affliction. 

3. Once I felt severely troubled because I knew that a person 
to whom I was very much obligated desired to do something 
serious against the honor of God, as well as his own; he was 
already very determined about the matter. My anxiety was so 
great I didn't know what to do. It no longer seemed there was 
any remedy to make him give up the idea. I begged the Lord 
with all my heart to provide a cure for him; but until seeing this 
cure I wasn't able to find any alleviation in my affliction. Being 
in such a state, I went to a secluded hermitage (for we have them 
in this monastery); and while in the one with the painting of 
Christ at the pillar, 4 and begging Him to grant me this favor, 
I heard a very gentle voice speaking to me in a kind of whistling 
sound. My hair stood on end, for the voice frightened me. I 
wanted to understand what it was saying; but I couldn't, because 
it passed very quickly. When my fear was gone, for it went away 
quickly, I felt such quiet and joy and interior delight that I 
marvelled that just hearing the sound of a voice could effect so 
much in the soul; for I heard it with my bodily ears and without 
understanding a word. In this experience I realized that what 
I had asked for would be accomplished. As a result it happened 
that my affliction left me completely even though the prayer was 
not yet answered; the pain went away just as it would had I seen 
the prayer answered as it really was afterward. I told this to my 


St. Teresa of Avila 

confessors, for I then had two who were very learned and were 
good servants of God. 5 

4. I knew a person who had resolved to serve God very earnest- 
ly and had devoted some days to prayer in which His Majesty 
granted him many favors. Because of some occasions of sin that 
he was in, he gave up prayer and did not withdraw from these 
occasions; and they were indeed dangerous. This pained me 
deeply since he was a person I loved very much and to whom 
I owed a great deal. I believe it was more than a month in which 
I didn't do anything else but beg God to bring this soul back 
to Himself. One day, while in prayer, I saw a devil at my side 
who very angrily was tearing to shreds some papers he had in 
his hands. This gave me great consolation, for it seemed to me 
that what I had been asking for had been accomplished. And 
so it was, for afterward, I learned that this person had made 
his confession with great contrition and returned to God so 
sincerely that I hope in His Majesty he will always make pro- 
gress. May God be blessed forever. Amen. 

5. It often happens that our Lord draws souls away from 
serious sin and also that He leads others to greater perfection 
because of my beseeching Him. The Lord has granted me so 
many favors by freeing souls from purgatory and doing other 
noteworthy things that I would tire myself and tire whoever reads 
this if I mentioned them all. He has granted much more in regard 
to the health of souls than He has in regard to the health of bodies. 
This has become something well known, and there are many 
witnesses to it. At the beginning it made me very scrupulous 
because I couldn't help believing that the Lord granted these 
favors because of my prayer — setting aside the main fact of His 
doing them solely out of His goodness. But now there are so 
many cases, and they are so obvious to other persons, that it 
doesn't bother me to believe this. I praise His Majesty — and am 
embarrassed — because I see that I'm more indebted to Him; the 
fact that He does this quickens my love and causes an increase 
in my desire to serve Him. What amazes me more is that I'm 
unable to ask, even though I want to, for the things the Lord 
finds unsuitable; I feel so little enthusiasm, spirit, and concern 
that, however much I want to force myself, it is impossible to 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 39 


ask. Whereas in the case of other things that His Majesty is go- 
ing to do, I find I can pray for them often, and with great in- 
sistence. Even when I don't have this concern myself, it seems 
to be put before me. 

6. The difference between these two kinds of petition is so great 
I don't know how to explain it. In the one case I don't cease forc- 
ing myself to beg the Lord, even though I may not feel that fer- 
vor in myself— although the petitions are close to my heart — 
that I feel for other petitions. I feel like someone whose tongue 
is tied; although she may want to speak, she cannot; and if she 
does speak, she does so in such a way that she finds she isn't 
understood. In the other case I feel like one who speaks clearly 
and diligently to someone who is listening very eagerly. In the 
first case, the petition is made, let us say for now, as it is in vocal 
prayer; in the other, it is made in sublime contemplation; the 
Lord so manifests Himself that He makes it known He hears 
us and is glad we ask this of Him and to grant us the favor. May 
He be blessed forever who gives so much, and to whom I give 
so little. For what does one do, my Lord, who doesn't get rid 
of everything for You? How I fail, how I fail — and I could say 
it a thousand times — to get rid of everything for You! There's 
no reason on this account to want to live (although there are 
other reasons), because I don't live in conformity with what I 
owe You. How many imperfections I see in myself! What laxi- 
ty in serving You! Indeed I think sometimes I would like to be 
without consciousness in order not to know so much evil about 
myself. May He who is able provide the remedy. 

7. While I was in the house of that lady I mentioned, 6 where 
it was necessary to be careful and ever reflect upon the vanity 
all the things of life bear with them (for I was very much esteemed 
and praised and was offered many things to which I could have 
truly become attached, had I looked out for myself), He who 
has true vision watched so as not to let me out of His 
hand. . . . 7 

8. Now that I mention "true vision" I recall the great trials 
persons whom God has brought to knowledge of the truth suf- 
fer in dealing with these earthly things, where so much is covered 
up, as the Lord once told me — for many of the things I write 


St. Teresa of Avila 

about here do not come from my own head, but my heavenly 
Master tells them to me. The things I designate with the words 
"this I understood" or "the Lord said this to me" cause me great 
scrupulosity if I leave out even as much as a syllable. Hence 
if I don't recall everything exactly, I put it down as coming from 
myself; or also, some things are from me. I don't call mine what 
is good, for I already know that there is nothing good in me but 
what the Lord has given me without my meriting it. But when 
I say "coming from me," I mean not being made known to me 
through a revelation. 

9. But alas, my God, how true it is that even in spiritual mat- 
ters we often want to understand things through our own very 
twisted opinion of the truth, just as we also do in worldly things. 
We think we must measure our progress by the years in which 
we have practiced prayer and, it even seems, put a measure on 
Him who gives His gifts without any measure, when He so 
desires. He can give more to one in half a year than to another 
in many years! This is something I have seen so clearly in many 
persons that I'm amazed how we can even stop to consider it. 

10. I firmly believe that anyone who has talent in discerning 
spirits and to whom the Lord may have given true humility will 
not be deceived in this matter. For such a person judges by the 
good effects, resolutions, and love; and the Lord gives light that 
these may be recognized. As a result this person looks at the 
improvement and progress of souls and not at their age. One 
person in half a year can gain more than another can in twenty 
years because, as I say, the Lord gives to whomever He wants 
and also to whoever is better disposed. I now see some young 
girls entering this house; 8 because God has touched them and 
given them a little light and love (I mean that after a short while 
He gives them some gift), they do not wait for Him, or suffer 
any obstacle in their path, or even remember to eat. On account 
of Him who they know loves them, they close themselves up 
forever in a house without income, like someone who doesn't 
esteem her life. They give up everything; neither do they want 
their own will, not does it even occur to them that they could 
be unhappy with such enclosure and austerity: together they all 
offer themselves as a sacrifice to God. 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 39 


1 1 . How willingly in this regard I give them the advantage 
over me; I should walk with shame before God! What His Ma- 
jesty didn't succeed in doing with me in such a great number 
of years, from the time I began to practice prayer and He began 
to grant me favors, He has succeeded in doing with them in three 
months — with some even three days — after granting them much 
less than He did me, although He pays them well. Surely they 
are not unhappy about what they have done for Him. 

12. By noting this, I would like us to recall the many years 
that have passed since we made profession and began to prac- 
tice prayer, and not to disturb those who in a short time make 
more progress, causing them to turn back in order to walk at 
our pace; nor would I want to make those who fly like eagles 
with the favors God grants them to advance like fettered chickens. 
But let us fix our eyes on His Majesty; if we see they are hum- 
ble, give them the rein; the Lord who grants them so many favors 
will not let them fall from the precipice. They themselves trust 
in God, for in this way the truth they know through faith benefits 
them. And is it that we do not trust them but want to measure 
them by our own measure conformed to our lowly spirits? Not 
so; but if we don't attain to the wonderful good effects and resolu- 
tions of their experience, let us humble ourselves and not con- 
demn them; without experience one can misunderstand these 
things. In thinking that we are looking after their progress, we 
are avoiding and losing this occasion for progress ourselves. For 
the Lord places this occasion before us so as to humble us and 
that we might understand what we lack and how much closer 
to God and more detached these souls must be than are ours 
since His Majesty draws so close to them. 

13. I don't mean, nor would I want it to be thought that I 
mean, anything else than that I would prefer a prayer practiced 
for only a short time and that produced marvelous effects that 
can be seen at once; for it is impossible without a powerful love 
to give up everything only so as to please God. Such prayer is 
better than prayer practiced for many years in which one never, 
either in the beginning or afterward, succeeds in resolving to 
do anything at all for God — except some tiny little things, like 
grains of salt, that have no weight or bulk and could be carried 


St. Teresa of Avila 

in a sparrow's beak, and that we do not consider to be a mor- 
tification or a great effect of prayer. It's a pity we even know 
about some things we do for the Lord and pay attention to them, 
even though they be many. 

I'm this way, and I forget the favors at every step. I do not 
say that His Majesty, being so good, will not highly regard these 
little deeds we perform. But I wouldn't want to pay attention 
to them or observe that I'm doing them, since they are nothing. 
Yet pardon me, my Lord, and don't blame me for having to 
console myself with something, for I don't serve You in anything. 
If I served You in great matters, I wouldn't be paying attention 
to trifles. Blessed are those persons who serve You with great 
deeds! If it were taken into account that I envy them and desire 
these deeds, I wouldn't be very far behind in pleasing You; but 
I'm not worth anything, my Lord. Give me worth Yourself since 
You love me so much. 

14. On one of these days, when a brief from Rome was suc- 
cessfully obtained so that this monastery could exist without an 
income, 9 it happened that I thought the accomplishment had 
cost me some difficulty. While being consoled in finding that 
the matter was ended and thinking of the trials I had experi- 
enced and praising the Lord for His having desired to make some 
use of me, I began to consider the things I had undergone. As 
a matter of fact, in each thing I did that seemed to be worth 
something, I found many faults and imperfections, and 
sometimes a lack of courage, and often little faith. For until the 
present moment, when I see the fulfillment of everything the 
Lord told me in regard to this house, I never succeeded in 
definitely believing that what the Lord told me would come 
about; but neither could I doubt that it would. It happened that 
often on the one hand the fulfillment seemed to me impossible, 
while on the other hand I couldn't doubt it — I mean believe it 
would not come about. Finally, I discovered that the Lord for 
His part did everything good and that I did the bad; so I stopped 
thinking about the matter. I didn't want to recall it and thereby 
stumble upon so many of my faults. May He be blessed who 
when He so desires draws good out of everything, amen. 

15. Well, I say that it is dangerous to count the number of 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 39 


years in which you have practiced prayer; even though humili- 
ty may be present, I think there can remain a kind of feeling 
that you deserve something for the service. I don't mean that 
you don't gain merit and that you will not be well paid. But I 
consider it certain that spiritual persons who think that they 
deserve these delights of spirit for the many years they have prac- 
ticed prayer will not ascend to the summit of the spiritual life. 
Isn't it enough that God take them by the hand to keep them 
from committing the offenses they did before they practiced 
prayer, without their wanting, so to speak, to sue God for money? 
I don't think it shows profound humility. Indeed, it could; but 
I consider it audacity. I don't think that I, who have little humili- 
ty, would ever have dared to do so. Now it might be that since 
I have never served, I have never asked; perhaps if I had served, 
I would desire more than anyone that the Lord repay me. 

16.1 don't say that a soul will not grow or that God will not 
give this increase if its prayer has been humble, but I say that 
those years of service should be forgotten; for in comparison with 
one drop of the blood the Lord shed for us, everything we do 
is disgusting. And if in serving more we become more indebted, 
what is this we seek? For if we pay one maravedi of the debt, 
we are given a thousand ducats in return. Let us out of love 
for God set aside these judgments because they belong to Him. 
These comparisons are always bad, even in earthly matters; what 
must they amount to in matters that only God knows about? 
And His Majesty showed it well when He paid as much to the 
workers who came last as to those who came first. 10 

17. I've returned so often to write these three folios and so 
many days have passed — for I have had and now have, as I said, 
little time — 11 that I had forgotten what I began to say, which 
was about this vision. I saw myself standing alone in prayer in 
a large field; surrounding me were many different types of peo- 
ple. All of them I think held weapons in their hands so as to 
harm me: some held spears; others, swords; others, daggers; and 
others, very long rapiers. In sum, I couldn't escape on any side 
without putting myself in danger of death; I was alone without 
finding a person to take my part. While my spirit was in this 
affliction, not knowing what to do, I lifted my eyes to heaven 


St. Teresa of Avila 

and saw Christ, not in heaven but quite far above me in the 
sky; He was holding out His hand toward me, and from there 
He protected me in such a way that I had no fear of all the peo- 
ple, nor could they harm me even though they wanted to. 

18. This vision seems fruitless, but it greatly benefited me 
because I was given an understanding of its meaning. A little 
afterward I found myself almost in the midst of that battery, 
and I knew that the vision was a picture of the world; everything 
in the world, it seems, bears arms so as to injure the afflicted 
soul. I'm not referring to those who don't serve God well, or to 
honors, property, delights, and other similar things; for it is clear 
that when you least expect you are ensnared — in any event, all 
these things strive to ensnare. But I'm referring to friends, 
relatives, and, what frightens me most, very good persons. I after- 
ward found myself so oppressed by them all, while they thought 
they were doing good, that I didn't know how to defend myself 
or what to do. 

19. Oh, God help me! Were I to speak of the different kinds 
of trials I experienced at this time, even after those I described 
before, how good would be the counsel to despise everything 
completely! It was the greatest persecution, it seems to me, of 
those I had undergone. I say that sometimes I found myself so 
constricted on every side that the only remedy I discovered was 
to raise my eyes to heaven and call upon God. I remembered 
well what I had seen in that vision. It profited me a great deal 
so that I didn't trust very much in anyone, for there is no stable 
help but in God. The Lord always sent me in these great trials 
a person on His side to lend me a hand, as He showed me in 
this vision, who was unattached to anything other than pleas- 
ing the Lord. He did this to sustain the little amount of virtue 
I had to desiring to serve Him. May You, Lord, be blessed 

20. Once while very disturbed and troubled, unable to recollect 
myself and in battle and strife with my own thoughts which were 
turning to imperfect matters — finding that I didn't have the 
detachment I usually do — I feared, since I saw I was so wretched, 
that the favors the Lord had granted me had been illusions. I 
experienced, in sum, a great darkness of soul. While I was in 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 39 


this affliction, the Lord began to speak to me. He told me not 
to be anxious, that in seeing myself in this condition I would 
understand how miserable I'd be if He withdrew from me, and 
that there is no security while we live in this flesh. He made me 
understand how worthwhile this war and strife is that merits such 
a reward (it seemed to me the Lord took pity on those who live 
in the world), that I should not think He had forgotten me, that 
He would never abandon me, but that it was necessary I do what 
I could. The Lord told me this with comforting compassion, and 
He said other things by which He showed me His great favor 
and which there is no reason for me to tell. 12 

21. His Majesty, showing me deep love, often speaks these 
words to me: "Now you are Mine, and I am yours." The words 
I always have the custom of saying, and I think I say them 
truthfully, are: "What do I care about myself, Lord, when I care 
only about You?" These words and gifts make me so extraor- 
dinarily embarrassed when I recall what I am (as I have often 
said, n I think, and now sometimes tell my confessor) that more 
courage is necessary to receive these favors than to undergo the 
severest trials. When they take place, I am almost completelv 
forgetful of my deeds and am shown that I am wretched. This 
happens without any discursive activity of the intellect, for it 
also seems to me at times supernatural. 

22. On occasion there come over me such ardent desires to 
receive Communion that I don't think they could be exaggerated. 
They came upon me one morning when it was raining so hard 
it seemed impossible to leave the house. When I was outside 
the house, I was already so outside myself with the desire for 
Communion that even should lances have been held to my heart 
I think I'd have gone into their midst; how much more into the 
midst of rain. When I reached the church a great rapture came 
upon me. It seemed to me I saw the heavens open, not just an 
entrance as I have seen before. A throne was shown to me, which 
at other times I've told your Reverence I've seen; 14 and above 
it another throne where the Divinity was. Although I didn't see 
the Divinity, I knew with an indescribable knowledge that It 
was there. Seemingly some animals were holding up the throne. 
I think I have heard a description of these animals. I wondered 


St. Teresa of Avila 

if they were the Evangelists. 15 But what the throne was like or 
who was on it, I didn't see — only a great multitude of angels. 
They seemed to me to be incomparably more beautiful than those 
I had seen in heaven. I wondered if they were seraphim or 
cherubim because they were very different in glory. It seemed 
they were afire; the difference is great, as I've said. 16 And the 
glory I then experienced in myself cannot be put in writing or 
described, nor could anyone who hadn't experienced it imagine 
what it is like. I understood that everything desirable is brought 
together there, yet I didn't see anything. I was told, I don't know 
by whom, that what I could do there was understand that I 
couldn't understand anything and reflect upon how in comparison 
with that glory everything else was nothing at all. As a conse- 
quence, my soul was afterward ashamed to see that it could be 
detained by any created thing; how much more if it were to 
become attached to it, for all things seemed to me like an ant-hill. 

23. I was present at Mass and received Communion, but I 
don't know how it was possible. It seemed to me only a short 
time had passed. I was amazed when the clock struck and I found 
I had been in that rapture and glory for two hours. It seems 
this fire comes from above, from God's true love; for however 
much I may desire and seek and strive after it, I play no part 
in obtaining even a spark of it, save when His Majesty so desires, 
as I have often said. 17 I was amazed afterward how this fire, 
when one is united to it, seems to consume the old man with 
his faults and lukewarmness and misery. Like the phoenix — 
according to what I have read — 18 which after it is burned rises 
again from the same ashes, so afterward the soul becomes 
another, with different desires and great fortitude. It doesn't seem 
to be what it was before, but begins to walk on the Lord's path 
with new purity. While I was beseeching His Majesty that so 
it would be and that I would begin again to serve Him, He told 
me: "You have made a good comparison; see that you don't forget 
to strive always for improvement." 

24. Once having the same doubt I just mentioned before, 19 
whether these visions were from God, the Lord appeared to me 
and said to me severely: "O children of the earth! How long will 
you be hard of heart?" 20 He said that I should examine one 

The Book of Her Life — Chap. 39 


thing in myself: whether I was totally surrendered to Him, or 
not; that if I was, I should believe He would not let me go astray. 
I became very distressed by that exclamation. In a most tender 
and comforting way He returned to say I shouldn't be distressed; 
that He already knew that for my part I wouldn't fail to dedicate 
myself entirely to His service; that everything I wanted would 
be done (and so what I then begged for was done); that I should 
behold the love for Him that was growing in me each day; that 
from this I could see that my experiences weren't from the devil; 
that I shouldn't think God would allow the devil to play such 
a role in the souls of His servants, or that the devil could give 
the quietude or clarity of understanding that I experienced. He 
made me realize that since so many persons, of such quality, 
told me these visions were from God I would be doing wrong 
in not believing them. 

25. Once while reciting the psalm Quicumque vult n I was 
given so clear an understanding of how there is only one God 
and three Persons that I was amazed and greatly consoled. It 
was extraordinarily beneficial to me to have further knowledge 
of the grandeurs of God and of His marvels. When I think about 
or discuss the Blessed Trinity, it seems I understand how it is 
possible; and this gives me great happiness. 

26. One day, the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, Queen 
of Angels, the Lord desired to grant me the following favor; in 
a rapture He showed me her ascent to heaven, the happiness 
and solemnity with which she was received, and the place where 
she is. I wouldn't be able to describe how this happened. The 
glory my spirit experienced in seeing so much glory was magnifi- 
cent. The effects of this favor were great. I was helped in hav- 
ing a deeper desire to undergo difficult trials, and I was left with 
a longing to serve our Lady since she deserved this so much. 

27. While at a college of the Society of Jesus 22 and while the 
Brothers in that house were receiving Communion, I saw a very 
richly made pallium above their heads. I saw this twice. When 
other persons were receiving Communion, I didn't see it. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Chapter 40 

Continues with the same subject, telling of the great favors the Lord granted 
her. Good doctrine can be deduced from some of these favors; for, in addi- 
tion to obeying, her main intention, as she said, has been to write about 
those favors that will be of benefit to souls. With this chapter the written 
account of her life comes to an end. May it be for the glory of the Lord, amen. 

ONCE WHILE IN PRAYER the delight I felt within me 
was so great that, as someone who is unworthy of such 
good, I began to think about how I merited rather to be in that 
place I had seen was reserved for me in hell. For, as I said, 1 
I never forget the situation I there found myself in. With this 
reflection my soul began to grow more enkindled and there came 
upon me a spiritual rapture that I don't know how to describe. 
It seemed I was carried into and filled with that majesty I at 
other times understood. Within this majesty I was given 
knowledge of a truth that is the fulfillment of all truths. I don't 
know how to explain this because I didn't see anything. I was 
told without seeing anyone, but I clearly understood that it was 
Truth itself telling me: "This is no small thing I do for you, 
because it is one of the things for which you owe Me a great 
deal; for all the harm that comes to the world comes from its 
not knowing the truths of Scripture in clarity and truth; not one 
iota of Scripture will fall short." 2 To me it seemed I had always 
believed this, and that all the faithful believed it. He told me: 
"Alas, daughter, how few there are who truthfully love me! For 
if they loved me, I would reveal to them my secrets. Do you 
know what it is to love Me truthfully? It is to understand that 
everything that is displeasing to me is a lie. By the beneficial 
effects this understanding will cause in your soul you shall see 
clearly what you now do not understand." 

2. And this I have afterward come to realize, may the Lord 
be praised. For ever since then, that which I observe as not 
directed toward the service of God seems to me to be such vani- 
ty and deception that I wouldn't know how to describe the manner 
in which I understand this. Nor would I know how to describe 
the grief caused me by those who I see are in darkness about 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 40 


this truth, or, along with this, how to describe many other ad- 
vantages that I shall mention here. The Lord spoke to me a par- 
ticular word in this rapture by which He showed me extraor- 
dinary favor. I don't know how this came about, because I didn't 
see anything; but I was left with a feeling of indescribable good 
fortune and with the greatest and most authentic fortitude in 
using all my strength to carry out the least part of Sacred Scrip- 
ture. It seems to me that no obstacle could cross my path that 
I wouldn't overcome. 3 

3. From this divine Truth, which showed itself to me, there 
was engraved upon me, without my knowing how or what, a 
truth that gives me a new reverence toward God; for it gives 
knowledge of His majesty and power in an indescribable way: 
I know that this majesty and power are something great. There 
was left in me a keen desire to speak only those things that are 
very true, that reach beyond what is dealt with here in the world; 
and so I began to experience the pain of living in the world. 
This experience left me feeling great tenderness, consolation, 
and humility. I think that, without my understanding how, the 
Lord gave me very much with this favor. I felt no suspicion that 
it was an illusion. I didn't see anything, but I understood the 
great blessing there is in not paying attention to what doesn't 
bring us closer to God. Thus I understood that the Lord gave 
me understanding of what Truth itself is. 4 

4. All I have mentioned I have come to know sometimes 
through locutions, at other times without them. Some things I 
understood more clearly than I understand what is told me in 
words. I understood extraordinary truths about this Truth, more 
than if many learned men had taught me. I don't think they could 
ever have impressed truth upon me in this way or made me 
understand so clearly the vanity of this world. 

This truth, which I say was given to my understanding, is 
in itself truth, and it is without beginning or end; all other truths 
depend upon this truth, just as all other loves depend upon this 
love, and all other grandeurs upon this grandeur — although this 
statement is obscure if compared to the clear understanding the 
Lord wanted me to have. And what power this Majesty appears 
to have since in so short a time He leaves such an abundant in- 


St. Teresa of Avila 

crease and things so marvelous impressed upon the soul! O my 
Grandeur and Majesty! What are You doing, my all-powerful 
Lord? Look upon whom You bestow such sovereign favors! Don't 
You recall that this soul has been an abyss of lies and a sea of 
vanities, and all through my own fault? For even though You 
gave me the natural temperament to abhor the lie, I myself in 
dealing with many things have lied. How do You bear it, my 
God? How is such great consolation and favor compatible with 
one who so poorly deserves this from You? 

5. Once while I was reciting with all the Sisters the hours of 
the Divine Office, my soul suddenly became recollected; and 
it seemed to me to be like a brightly polished mirror, without 
any part on the back or sides or top or bottom that wasn't total- 
ly clear. In its center Christ, our Lord, was shown to me, in 
the way I usually see Him. 5 It seemed to me I saw Him clear- 
ly in every part of my soul, as though in a mirror. And this mirror 
also — I don't know how to explain it — was completely engraved 
upon the Lord Himself by means of a very loving communica- 
tion I wouldn't know how to describe. I know that this vision 
is very beneficial to me each time I remember it, especially after- 
receiving Communion. I was given understanding of what it is 
for a soul to be in mortal sin. It amounts to clouding this mirror 
with mist and leaving it black; and thus this Lord cannot be 
revealed or seen, even though He is always present giving us 
being. 6 And I understood that heresies amount to breaking the 
mirror; which is much worse than its being darkened. The way 
in which this is seen is very different from telling about it because 
it can be poorly described. But it brought me much profit and 
caused me grief for the times in which through my sins I so 
darkened my soul that I couldn't see this Lord. 

6. I think this vision is advantageous to recollected persons, 
in teaching them to consider the Lord as very deep within their 
souls; such a thought is much more alluring and fruitful than 
thinking of Him as outside oneself, as I mentioned at other 
times. 7 And some books on prayer tell about where one must 
seek God. Particularly, the glorious St. Augustine speaks about 
this for neither in the market place nor in pleasures nor anywhere 
else that he sought God did he find Him as he did when he sought 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 40 


Him within himself. 8 Within oneself, very clearly, is the best 
place to look; and it's not necessary to go to heaven, nor any 
further than our own selves; for to do so is to tire the spirit and 
distract the soul, without gaining as much fruit. 

7. There is one thing I want to advise here, in case someone 
should experience it. It happens in deep rapture that after the 
time is past in which the soul is in union (for when it is in union 
the faculties are totally absorbed, and this doesn't last long, as 
I said,) 9 the soul remains recollected and cannot yet return to 
itself in exterior things; but the two faculties, the memory and 
the intellect, are left almost delirious and mad. This I say hap- 
pens sometimes, especially in the beginning. I think it proceeds 
from the fact that our natural weakness cannot bear such spiritual 
force, and the imagination is weakened. I know that it happens 
to some persons. I would consider it advisable that they force 
themselves to stop their prayer at that time and recover at another 
time what they miss; provided they do not try to regain this all 
at once, because this state could end up being harmful. And there 
is experience of such harm and of how fitting it is to consider 
what our health is capable of. 

8. However, experience and a spiritual master are necessary 
because once the soul has reached those boundaries many things 
occur about which it is necessary to have someone to talk to. 
If after one has looked for someone, no one is found, the Lord 
will not fail; He hasn't failed me in spite of what I am. I believe 
there are few who have arrived at the experience of so many 
things. If there isn't anyone with experience, there is no remedy 
at all; because lacking experience, the master will only disturb 
and afflict the soul. But the Lord will also take this into account. 
Hence it is necessary, especially in the case of women, to discuss 
this with one's confessor, and that he be a qualified one. I've 
said all this before, as well as, perhaps, all that I'm now saying 
(for I don't recall well); and I say it now because I find it is very 
important. There are many more women than men to whom 
the Lord grants these favors. This I heard from the saintly Friar 
Peter of Alcantara — and I too have observed it — who said that 
women make much more progress along this path than men do. 
He gave excellent reasons for this, all in favor of women; but 


St. Teresa of Avila 

there's no need to mention them here. 

9. Once while in prayer I was shown quickly, without my see- 
ing any form — but it was a totally clear representation — how 
all things are seen in God and how He holds them all in Himself. 
How to put this in writing, I don't know. But it was deeply im- 
pressed upon my soul, and it is one of the great favors the Lord 
has granted me and one of those that have most embarrassed 
me and made me ashamed when I recalled the sins I commit- 
ted. I believe that had the Lord been pleased that I should have 
seen this before and that those who offend Him should have seen 
it, neither I nor they would have had the heart or dared to of- 
fend Him. I say "it seemed to me," without being able to affirm 
that I saw anything; but something must have been seen since 
I shall be able to draw a comparison. 10 But the vision is seen 
in so subtle and delicate a manner that the intellect probably 
doesn't attain to it; or I don't know how to explain these visions 
that don't seem to be imaginative. Some of them must have 
something of the imaginative. But since the faculties are in rap- 
ture they are unable afterward to describe how the Lord is 
represented there and how He desires that they enjoy Him. 

10. Let us say, to make the comparison, that the Divinity is 
like a very clear diamond, much greater than all the world; or 
like a mirror, as I said referring to the soul in that other vi- 
sion, 11 except that it is a mirror in so sublime a way that I 
wouldn't know how to exaggerate this. And we could say that 
everything we do is visible in this diamond since it is of such 
a kind that it contains all things within itself; there is nothing 
that escapes its magnitude. It was a frightening experience for 
me to see in so short a time so many things joined together in 
this diamond, and it is most saddening, each time I recall, to 
see appearing in that pure brilliance things as ugly as were my 
sins. It happens that whenever I recall this, I fail to know how 
I can bear it; as a result I am then left with such shame that 
I don't think I know where to hide. Oh, who could explain this 
to those who commit very indecent and ugly sins, that they might 
recall that these sins are not hidden and that God is rightly aware 
of them since they take place squarely in the presence of the Ma- 
jesty? And we act so disrespectfully in front of Him! I saw how 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 40 


truly hell is deserved through only one mortal sin because one 
cannot understand how dreadfully serious it is to commit this 
sin before such awesome Majesty and how far from what He 
is are things of this sort. So His mercy is seen more clearly since 
even when we understand all this He bears with us. 

1 1 . It made me reflect that if something like this so frightens 
the soul, what will the day of judgment be like when this Ma- 
jesty will be shown to us clearly and we shall see the offenses 
we have committed? Oh, God help me, what blindness this is 
that I have borne! Many times I have been frightened over this 
vision of what I have written. Your Reverence should not be 
surprised about it, but rather about how I can go on living after 
seeing these things and then looking at myself. May He be blessed 
forever who has put up with so much from me! 

12. Once while I was in prayer with deep recollection, delight, 
and quiet, it seemed to me I was surrounded by angels and very 
close to God. I began to beseech His Majesty for the Church. 
A revelation was given me of the great good that would be done 
by a religious order in the latter times and of the fortitude with 
which its members would sustain the faith. 12 

13. Once while I was praying near the Blessed Sacrament, 
a saint appeared to me whose order was somewhat fallen. He 
held in his hands a great book. He opened it and told me to 
read some large and very legible letters. This is what they said. 
"In the time to come this order will flourish; it will have many 

14. At another time while I was at Matins in the choir, there 
were shown or represented to me six or seven members — it seems 
there were that many — of the same order, holding swords in their 
hands. I think this meant that they will defend the faith. For 
at another time while I was in prayer, my spirit was carried off 
to where it seemed to be in a large field in which many were 
in combat, and those belonging to this order were fighting with 
great fervor. Their faces were beautiful and very much aglow. 
They conquered many, throwing them to the ground; others, 
they killed. It seemed to me this battle was against the heretics. 

15.1 sometimes saw this glorious saint, and he told me a few 
things and thanked me for praying for his order and promised 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to recommend me to the Lord. I'm not naming the orders (if 
the Lord were pleased that they be known, He would declare 
them), lest others be offended. But each order, or, rather, each 
member must strive that through his instrumentality the Lord 
might make his order so prosperous that it will be of service to 
God in the extreme need the Church is now in. Happy the lives 
lost for such a purpose! 

16. A person once asked me to beg God to let him know if 
it would be to the Lord's service for him to accept a bishopric. 
The Lord told me after I received Communion: "When he 
understands in all truthfulness and clarity that real lordship con- 
sists in possessing nothing, then he will be able to accept it." 15 
With these words He indicated that anyone who is about to 
receive a prelacy must be far from desiring or wanting it, or at 
least from striving after it. 

17. The Lord granted and continues ordinarily to grant these 
favors, and many others, to this sinner. It doesn't seem to me 
necessary to mention these others, since from what was said my 
soul can be understood as can also the spirit the Lord has given 
me. May He be blessed forever who has taken such care of me. 

18. Once in comforting me He told me with much love that 
I shouldn't be anxious, that in this life we cannot always be in 
a stable condition, that sometimes the soul will experience fer- 
vor and at other times be without it, that sometimes it will have 
disturbances and at other times have quiet, and again tempta- 
tions; but that it should hope in Him and not be afraid. 

19. One day I was wondering if it was an attachment for me 
to find satisfaction in being with persons with whom I discuss 
my soul and whom I love, or with those who I see are great ser- 
vants of God since it consoled me to be with them. The Lord 
told me that if a sick person who was in danger of death thought 
a doctor was bringing about a cure, that sick person wouldn't 
be virtuous for failing to thank and love the doctor; that if it 
hadn't been for these persons what would I have done; that con- 
versation with good persons is not harmful, but that my words 
should always be well weighed and holy, and that I shouldn't 
fail to converse with them; that doing so is beneficial rather than 
harmful. This consoled me greatly because sometimes, since con- 

The Book of Her Life -Chap. 40 


versing with them seemed to me to be an attachment, I didn't 
want to talk to them at all. 

Always in all matters this Lord counseled me even to the point 
of telling me how I should behave with the weak and with cer- 
tain persons. Never does he neglect me. 

20. Sometimes I worry because I see I do so little in His ser- 
vice and that I must necessarily take time for a body as weak 
and wretched as mine, more than I would want. Once I was 
in prayer, and the hour for going to bed came; I was feeling 
many pains and had to induce the usual vomiting. 14 Since I 
saw I was so bound to myself and that my spirit on the other 
hand wanted more time, I got so wearied I began to weep free- 
ly and grow distressed. (This has happened not only once but, 
as I say, often.) It seems to me I became angry with myself in 
such a way that I then truly hated myself. But usually I know 
I don't hold myself in abhorrence, nor do I fail to do what I see 
is necessary for myself. And may it please the Lord that I do 
not care for myself more than is necessary, as sometimes I'm 
afraid I do. This time of which I'm speaking, the Lord appeared 
to me and greatly comforted me and told me I should suffer and 
do these things for love of Him because they were now necessary 
for my life. So I think I was never afflicted afterward, because 
I'm determined to serve this Lord and my comforter with all 
my strength; even though He allowed me to suffer a little, He 
consoled me in such a way that I don't do anything in desiring 
trials. So now it seems to me there is no other reason for living 
than to suffer trials, and this is what I most willingly beg of God. 
Sometimes I say earnestly to Him; "Lord, either to die or to suf- 
fer; I don't ask anything else for myself." I am consoled to hear 
the clock strike, for at the passing away of that hour of life it 
seems to me I am drawing a little closer to the vision of God. 

21 . At other times I am in such a condition that I neither feel 
like living nor have any mind to die, but I experience a 
lukewarmness and darkness in everything, with many trials, as 
I've said I often do. 15 And although the Lord desired that these 
favors He grants me be publicly known , it has been a comfort 
to me that they have not been made known through any fault 
of mine. His Majesty told me some years ago that so it must 


St. Teresa of Avila 

be, for I was very worried. And up to the present time I have 
suffered no small amount, as your Reverence knows, because 
each one gives them their own interpretation. I took extreme 
care not to tell anyone but my confessors or persons who, I 
learned from these confessors, knew about them. And I did this 
not out of humility but because, as I said, 16 it is even painful 
for me to tell my confessors. Now, glory to God (even though 
many criticize me, and with true zeal, and others are afraid to 
talk to me or even hear my confession, and others say numerous 
things against me), I am bothered very little by it all since I 
understand that by this means the Lord has desired to provide 
a cure for many souls (because I have seen it clearly and recall 
how much the Lord will suffer for only one soul). I don't know 
if this public knowledge of these favors is partly the reason His 
Majesty placed me in this little corner so enclosed, 17 where, ac- 
cording to what I thought, I would, as one dead, no longer be 
remembered. But things haven't turned out quite as I had 
wanted, for I am forced to speak to some persons. Yet since I'm 
not where I can be seen, it seems the Lord has brought me to 
a refuge which I hope, in His Majesty, will be safe. 

22. Since I am among a few holy companions and am not 
in the world, I observe as though from up high and am really 
little bothered by what they say or know about me. Moreover, 
I would like some soul to profit a little by all that can be said 
about me. Since I have been living in this house, the Lord has 
been pleased that all my desires converge upon this one desire. 
And He has given me a kind of sleep in life, or it almost always 
seems to me that I am dreaming what I see. I am aware in myself 
of neither happiness nor pain, however great. If certain things 
do give me either of these, the happiness or pain passes so quickly 
I marvel, and the feeling left me is that it was like a dream. This 
is the complete truth; for even though afterward I may want to 
rejoice over that happiness or be sad about that pain, it is not 
in my power to do so; just as a prudent person is unable to delight 
in or grieve over a dream that was had. The Lord has now 
awakened my soul from that which, because I was not mortified 
or dead to the things of the world, caused me such feelings; and 
His Majesty does not want my soul to become blind again. 

The Book of Her Life— Chap. 40 


23. This is the way in which I now live, my Lord and 
Father. 18 May your Reverence beg God that He either take me 
to Himself or show me how to serve Him. May it please His 
Majesty that what is here written be of some benefit to your 
Reverence, for it was difficult to do on account of the small 
amount of time I had. But the difficulty will have proved well 
worthwhile if I have managed to say something that may bring 
someone to praise the Lord, even if only once; with this I would 
feel repaid even though your Reverence then burns it. 

24. I wouldn't want you to do that until the three persons 14 
known by your Reverence have seen it, since they are and have 
been my confessors. If this account of my life is badly done, it 
will be a good thing if they lose their high opinion of me; if it 
is done well, they are good and learned men, and I know they 
will see where it comes from and praise Him who told it through 

May His Majesty always keep your Reverence in His hands 
and make you so great a saint that with your spirit and light 
you may illumine this miserable woman who has little humility 
and is very bold in having dared to undertake the task of writing 
things so sublime. May it please the Lord that I did not err in 
doing so since my intention and desire was to do what was right 
and to obey, and that through me He might receive some praise, 
which is what I have been beseeching Him for many years. Since 
I do not have the deeds that praise Him, I have dared to re- 
count this dissipated life of mine, although I haven't spent any 
more care or time on this account than was necessary to put it 
in writing and record as clearly and truthfully as I could what 
has taken place in me. 

May it please the Lord, since He is powerful and can hear 
me if He wants, that I might succeed in doing His will in 
everything. May his Majesty not allow this soul to be lost, which, 
with so many artifices, in so many ways, and so often, He has 
rescued from hell and brought to Himself. Amen. 


HE HOLY SPIRIT BE ALWAYS with your Reverence, 

It wouldn't be wrong for me to recommend earnestly the 
following service to your Reverence: 1 that you feel the obliga- 
tion of taking great care to pray to our Lord for me. For I cer- 
tainly must have the right to ask this of you from what I have 
undergone in writing about myself and calling to mind so many 
of my miseries; although I can truthfully say it was more dif- 
ficult for me to write about the favors His Majesty granted me 
than about my offenses against Him. 

2. I did what your Reverence commanded me and enlarged 
upon the material. 2 I did this on the condition that you do 
what you promised by tearing up what appears to you to be bad. 
I hadn't finished reading it after the writing was done when you 
sent for it. It could be that some of the things are poorly ex- 
plained and others put down twice, for I had so little time I 
couldn't read over what I wrote. I ask your Reverence to cor- 
rect it and have it transcribed if it is to be brought to the Father 
Master Avila, 3 for it could happen that someone might 
recognize my handwriting. I urgently desire that he be asked 
for his opinion about it since this was my intention in begin- 
ning to write. If it seems to him I am walking on a good path, 
I shall be very consoled; then nothing else would remain for me 
than to do what lies within my power. Nevertheless, do what 
you think best and remember you are obliged to one who has 
so entrusted her soul to you. 

3. I shall recommend your Reverence's soul to our Lord for 
the rest of my life. So do me the favor of hurrying to serve His 
Majesty; for you will see, from what is written here, how well 
one is occupied when one gives oneself entirely — as your 
Reverence has begun to do — to Him who so immeasurably gives 


The Book of Her Life — Epilogue 


Himself to us. 

4. May He be blessed forever! I hope in His mercy that your 
Reverence and I will see each other there where we shall behold 
more clearly the great things He has done for us, and praise Him 
forever and ever, amen. 

This book was finished in June, 1562. 

Spiritual Testimonies 



The Life of St. Teresa covers, almost exactly, her first fifty 
years. In our introductions to later volumes, within the context 
of her other writings, more information will be given about 
Teresa's life, interior and exterior, as it progressed after 1565. 
In this volume we are including a collection of other written 
reports left by Teresa about her spiritual experiences. Besides 
the six longer accounts of her state of soul, there are in this group 
numerous shorter reports and fragments in which she usually 
describes some particular grace or counsel given her by the Lord. 
It would seem from a statement made by Maria de San Jose 
and from testimony 24 that these shorter accounts were written 
down at our Lord's command. 

Three of the longer accounts (testimonies 1-3) were composed 
by Teresa for her confessors before she completed her Life) the 
other three were written much later. Of the two written from 
Seville in 1576 for Rodrigo Alvarez, S.J., one (testimoney 58) 
is a reply to an investigation by the Inquisition. The final long 
account was destined for a former confessor, the bishop of Osma, 
and written in 1581 , the year prior to that in which Teresa died. 
These lengthier accounts of her spiritual state of soul provide 
an often neglected rich source for students of the mystical life. 
It is particularly enlightening to note the difference between her 
spiritual state as manifested in the report of 1560 and that shown 
in the report of 1581 . There are also some excellent descriptions 
of mystical prayer and, in testimony 59, an interesting summary 
of its stages. 

The writings in this collection taken as a whole have two com- 
mon characteristics: a thematic unity, since all of them consist 
of affirmations about Teresa's own spiritual life; and a 



St. Teresa of Avila 

chronological discontinuity, for they were written at different 

No consensus exists with respect to the place this collection 
should occupy in the Teresian corpus. If one follows a 
chronological order, the collection has to be divided up and the 
various accounts put in different places throughout Teresa's 
writings. Doing so prejudices the value the group of writings 
has as a collection and as an important complement to the Life. 

Some editors, on the other hand, though keeping the accounts 
together, have tried to follow a thematic order, dividing the group 
into two sections: one, under the title of Relations, which com- 
prises the longer accounts; the other, under the title of Favors 
of God, which comprises the shorter accounts which deal with 
instances of particular graces more than with Teresa's spiritual 
state in general. 

In this new translation we have opted for keeping these writings 
together under the general title of Spiritual Testimonies and for 
arranging them in chronological order rather than thematic, plac- 
ing them in this first volume after the Life. These testimonies 
have been compared to X-rays of Teresa's soul, and, thematical- 
ly, are indeed a complement to the Book of Her Life. Her Life 
contains accounts of her state of soul as well as descriptions of 
many of the favors the Lord granted her up to the time of the 
completion of the book in 1565. The three first accounts could 
serve as a kind of foreword to the Life, and all the others would 
of necessity be a kind of epilogue since they deal with facts or 
experiences occurring after the book was finished. Since the word 
"relations" used in the title of former English translations is am- 
biguous, the general title Spiritual Testimonies , though new, seems 
more appropriate. These writings, as in the case of the Life, do 
indeed have the value of being testimonies to Teresa's experience 
of God and of His action within her. 

We have followed the text presented in Fr. Tomas Alvarez's 
edition (Burgos: Edit. El Monte Carmelo, 1971). He bases his text 
on those autographs still preserved (testimonies 4, 5 [the words 
spoken by our Lord], 12, 35, and 36) and on the text of Ribera 
taken for the most part from copies in the Avila codex. The 
headings at the beginning of each testimony were added by us 

Spiritual Testimonies — Introduction 
as a convenience for the reader. 



St. Teresa of Avila 


(Avila, 1560) 1 
Her spiritual state and manner of prayer 

My present procedure in prayer is as follows: I am seldom 
able while in prayer to use my intellect in a discursive 
way, for my soul immediately begins to grow recollected; and 
it remains in quiet or rapture to the extent that I cannot make 
any use of the senses. This recollection reaches such a point that 
if it were not for hearing— and this hearing does not include 
understanding— none of the senses would be of any avail. 

2. It often happens to me that this recollection and elevation 
of the spirit comes upon me so suddenly I cannot resist; and 
in a moment I receive the effects and benefits that it carries in 
its wake. This recollection occurs without my desiring to reflect 
on the things of God and while I am dealing with other things 
and thinking that even if I tried to practice prayer I wouldn't 
be able to because of great dryness, intensified by bodily pains. 
It happens without my having a vision, or understanding 
anything, or knowing where I am. But while it seems to me that 
my soul is getting lost, I see what it gains, so that should I have 
desired to obtain these blessings myself in the course of a year 
I don't think it would have been possible to have acquired them. 

3. At other times I receive a very intense, consuming impulse 
for God that I cannot resist. It seems my life is coming to an 
end, and so this impulse makes me cry out and call to God; and 
it comes with great frenzy. Sometimes I'm unable to remain 
seated because of the vomitings from which I suffer; 2 and this 
pain comes upon me without my seeking it. It is of such a kind 
that the soul would never want to be relieved of it as long as 
it lives. I have longings not to live this apparent life any more. 
I cannot find any remedy for these longings, since the cure for 
the desire to see God is death; and I cannot take this cure. Along 
with this, it seems to my soul that everyone has the greatest con- 
solation except itself and that all find a cure for their trials ex- 
cept itself. This causes such affliction that if the Lord didn't pro- 
vide a remedy by means of a certain rapture, in which everything 
is^nade^p^a^ejiil^and the soul remains in deep quiet and 

Spiritual Testimonies 


satisfaction — now beholding something of what it desires, now 
understanding other things — it would be impossible to get free 
from that pain. 

4. At other times, some desires to serve God come upon me 
with impulses so strong I don't know how to exaggerate them, 
and there is also pain in seeing of what little use I am. It seems 
to me, then, that no trial, neither death, nor martyrdom, nor 
anything could be offered to me that I wouldn't easily undergo. 
This, too, occurs without reflection; but in an instant it changes 
me completely, and I don't know where I get so much strength. 
It seems to me I would want to cry out and make everyone 
understand what is gained by not being satisfied with a few things 
and how much good there is that God will give us if we dispose 
ourselves for it. I say these desires are of a kind that consume 
me, for I want what I am unable to procure. It seems to me 
this body and this state bind me, for they are no good at all for 
serving God. If I wasn't so bound, I would do very noble deeds 
insofar as my strength would allow. But I feel such pain in see- 
ing I have no power to serve Him that I cannot exaggerate it. 
I end up with delight and recollection and consolations from God. 

5. At other times, when these anxious longings to serve Him 
come upon me, I feel I want to do penance; but I am unable. 
Penance would bring me great relief, and it does bring me relief 
and joy, although the penances amount to almost nothing on 
account of the weakness of my body; yet were these desires to 
remain, I think I would do too much. 

6. Sometimes it gives me great pain to have to have dealings 
with others; it afflicts me so much that it causes me to weep pro- 
fusely, because all my longing is to be alone. And even though 
sometimes I do not pray or read, solitude consoles me. Conver- 
sation, especially with relatives, seems to me burdensome. I feel 
as though I am among strangers, except when I am with those 
to whom I speak about prayer and the soul, for with these per- 
sons I am happy and consoled, although sometimes I have 
enough of them and do not want to see them but want to go 
where I can be alone; but this latter happens seldom, especially 
in the case of those to whom I manifest my conscience, for they 
are always a consolation to me. 


St. Teresa of Avila 

7. At other times it gives me great pain to have to eat and 
sleep and to see that I more than anyone cannot give up these 
actions. I perform them to serve God, and so I offer them to 
Him. It seems to me that all time is short and that I don't have 
enough for prayer, for I never tire of being alone. I always want 
to have time to read because I have been very fond of reading. 
I read very little, for in picking up a book I become recollected 
in my contentment, and so the time for reading passes in prayer. 
This time amounts to little, for I have many duties; and though 
they are good, they do not provide me with the satisfaction 
reading does. So I go about always wanting time, and the 
awareness that what I want and desire is not granted is that 
which, I think, makes everything insipid to me. 

8. All these desires and those, too, for virtue were given me 
by our Lord after He gave me this quiet prayer with these rap- 
tures; and I found I was so improved that it seems to me I was 
previously a total loss. These raptures and visions leave in me 
the benefits I shall here describe. And I say that if I have anything 
good, it has come from these. 

9. There has come upon me a very strong determination not 
to offend God, not even venially; for I would die a thousand 
deaths rather than offend Him knowingly. There is the deter- 
mination not to omit anything I think is more perfect or will 
render greater service to our Lord when the one who has care 
for me and directs me says this is so; and even though I may 
perform such action reluctantly, I wouldn't for any treasure fail 
to do it. And if I should do the contrary, I don't think I would 
dare ask our Lord God for anything, or practice prayer, although 
in all these matters I commit many faults and imperfections. 

I obey my confessor, although imperfectly. Yet, once I have 
understood that he wants something or has given me a command, 
insofar as I know I wouldn't fail to carry it out; and were I to 
fail, I would think I was being very much mistaken. 

I desire poverty, although imperfectly. Yet, I think that even 
were I to possess many treasures, I wouldn't keep any special 
income or any money for myself alone, nor would this matter 
to me. I would only want to have what's necessary. Still, I feel 
I'm very much lacking in this virtue. For although I don't desire 

Spiritual Testimonies 


any money for myself, I should like to have it so as to give it 
away, though I don't desire any income or anything for myself. 

10. From almost all the visions I've experienced, I've received 
some benefit, except in those cases where there is deception from 
the devil. In this I submit to my confessors. 

1 1 . When I see something beautiful or rich, like water, fields, 
flowers, fragrances, music, and so on, it seems to me that I 
wouldn't want to see or hear these things, so great is the dif- 
ference between them and what I am accustomed to seeing; thus 
all desire for such things is taken from me. And as a result I 
have come to care so little for them that, save for the first stir- 
rings, they make no impression on me and seem like dung. 

12. If I speak or have dealings with some secular persons 
because matters can't be otherwise, and even though the sub- 
ject may concern prayer, I find that if the conversation is pro- 
longed, just a diversion and unnecessary, I am forcing myself 
to continue, because such conversation is a severe hardship for 
me. Amusements that I used to like and things of the world, 
all annoy me; and I cannot look at them. 

13. These desires for loving and serving God and seeing Him, 
which I mentioned that I have, are not fostered by reflections 
as they were previously when it seemed to me I was very devout 
and when I shed many tears. But they come with so excessive 
an enkindling and fervor that I repeat that if God did not cure 
me by means of some rapture, in which it seems to me my soul 
is satisfied, I think my life would soon come to an end. 

14.1 greatly love those who I see are more advanced and who 
are determined, detached, and courageous; and they are the ones 
with whom I would want to converse; it seems they help me. 
Persons who I see are timid, who I think proceed with great cir- 
cumspection so that things can be done here below in conform- 
ity with reason are oppressive to me and make me cry to God 
and to His saints, who undertook those things that now frighten 
us. I feel this, not because I think I am worth anything but 
because I think God helps those who set out to do much for Him 
and that He never fails anyone who trusts in Him alone. I should 
like to find someone who would help me believe this, and not 
have to worry about what I must eat and wear, but be able to 


St. Teresa of Avila 

abandon that to God. It shouldn't be thought that this abandon- 
ment to God in necessities means I don't try to procure them, 
but I mean I don't do so with a concern that makes me worry. 
Since He has given me this freedom, such abandonment does 
me good, and I strive to forget myself as much as I can. It doesn't 
seem a year has yet passed since our Lord has given me this 

15. Insofar as I know, glory to God, there is no reason for 
me to experience vainglory. For I observe clearly in these things 
God grants that I don't do anything myself; rather, God gives 
me a feeling of my miseries. No matter how much thinking I 
might do, I would never be able to see all the truths I come to 
know in a moment. 

16. For a few days now, it seems to me as if I am speaking 
of another person when I speak of these things. Before, I was 
ashamed sometimes that my experiences were known, but now 
I think I'm no better on account of so many favors but worse, 
since I profit so little from them. Indeed, I think there hasn't 
been anyone worse than I in any part of the world. So it seems 
to me that the virtues of others have much more merit, that I 
don't do anything but receive favors, and that God will give others 
all at once what He desires to give me here. I beseech Him not 
to want to pay me in this life, and so I believe that because I 
am weak and wretched the Lord has led me by this path. 

17. While in prayer, and almost whenever I'm able to reflect 
a little, I'm unable to ask for rest or to desire it from God, even 
if I try. For I see that He didn't live but with trials; and I beg 
Him to give me these, granting me first the grace to suffer them. 

18. All these kinds of things that have to do with very sublime 
perfection it seems are impressed upon me in prayer, so much 
so that I am amazed to see so many truths and so clearly, for 
the things of the world appear to me to be nonsense. So I need 
to be careful by reflecting on what my attitude was previously 
toward the things of the world, for it seems to me that to grieve 
over its deaths and trials is foolish, at least if the sorrow or the 
love of relatives, friends, and so on, lasts a long while. I say that 
I proceed carefully, reflecting on what I was and what I used 
to feel. 

Spiritual Testimonies 


19. If in some persons 1 see things that clearly seem to be sins, 
I cannot come to the conclusion they have offended God. And 
if I stop somewhat to consider them — which happens hardly or 
not at all — I never reach that conclusion, although I may have 
seen the things clearly. It seems to me the care I have about 
serving God is had by all. In this matter He has granted me 
a great favor, for I never pause to consider anything evil; because 
when I afterward recall it, and if I recall it, I always see another 
virtue in that person. Thus these things never distress me, unless 
in the case of something that is common, or of heresies which 
often cause me affliction. And almost as often as I think about 
them it seems to me that this trial alone is the one that must 
be felt. I also grieve if I see some persons who used to practice 
prayer turn back. This grieves me, but not a lot, since I strive 
not to pause to think about it. 

20. I also find improvement in regard to my former vanities, 
but it is not complete; for I'm not always mortified in this regard, 
although sometimes, yes. 

21. All of this I have said is what ordinarily takes place in 
my soul insofar as I can understand. I very habitually keep my 
mind fixed on God; and when I am dealing with other things, 
without desire on my part — as I say— I am made attentive by 
I don't know who. I am not always made attentive but only when 
I'm dealing with some important matter; and this attentiveness 
to these matters lasts for only a short while and, glory to God, 
is not continuous. 

22. It happens to me on some days — although not often, and 
the experience lasts about three, four, or five days — that it seems 
to me that all the good things, fervor, and visions have been 
taken away; and even taken from my memory, for I don't know, 
although I may want to, what good there has been in me. 
Everything seems to have been a dream, at least I'm not able 
to remember anything. All my bodily ills together afflict me. 
My intellect disturbs me because I cannot think anything about 
God, nor do I know what state I'm in. If I read, I don't under- 
stand. It seems to me I am full of faults, without any courage 
for virtue, and that that great courage I usually have dwindles 
to this: that I'd be unable to resist the least temptation or criticism 


St. Teresa of Avila 

from the world. It occurs to me then that I'm good for nothing, 
that no one could force me to do more than what is ordinary; 
I feel sad; I feel I've deceived all those who have given me some 
credit. I should like to hide some place where no one would see 
me; not solitude for virtue's sake, but out of pusillanimity. It 
seems to me I'd want to quarrel with everyone who contradicts 
me. I carry about with me this battle, except that God grants 
me the favor of not offending Him more than I usually do. Nor 
do I ask Him to take away this state, but that if it is His will 
it might remain always, that He keep me in His hands that I 
might not offend Him; and I conform myself to Him with all 
my heart. I believe it is an extraordinary favor He grants me 
that I am not always in this condition. 

23. One thing amazes me, that, while I'm in this state, with 
one word alone of those I'm accustomed to hearing, or one vi- 
sion, or a little recollection that lasts for the space of a Hail Mary, 
or in approaching to receive Communion, my soul and body 
will become very quiet, and my intellect very sound and clear, 
and I will feel all the fortitude and desires I usually have. I have 
experienced for more than a half year that at least when I am 
receiving Communion I noticeably and clearly feel bodily health. 
Sometimes I feel this by means of raptures, which occasionally 
last more than three hours. At other times I am greatly improved 
throughout the whole day. In my opinion this is not a matter 
of fancy, because I have observed and taken note of it. As a result, 
when I have this recollection I don't fear any illness. It is true 
that when I experience the prayer I did before, I do not feel this 

24. All these things I mentioned make me believe these favors 
are from God. For since I know who I was, that I was walking 
on the road of perdition, it is certain that in a short while through 
these experiences my soul became amazed, not knowing where 
these virtues came from. I didn't know myself; I saw they were 
something given and not gained through toil. I understand in 
all clarity and truthfulness, and know I am not deceived, that 
this has been a means by which God not only brought me to 
His service but freed me from hell. All of this my confessors to 
whom I've made my general confessions know. 

Spiritual Testimonies 


25. Also, when I meet any person who knows something about 
me, I want to explain my life to him. For I think it is an honor 
to me that our Lord be praised, and I don't care anything about 
the rest. He knows this well, or I am very blind; for there is 
no honor or life or glory of any good of body or soul that holds 
me back, nor would I want or desire my own gain, but only 
His glory. I cannot believe the devil sought out so many bless- 
ings to win my soul in order that he might afterward lead it 
astray, for I don't consider him to be that stupid. Nor can I 
believe, though on account of my sins I deserve to be deceived, 
that God would fail to hear so many prayers offered up over 
a period of two years by so many good people — for I don't do 
anything else but ask everyone for prayers — in order that He 
would either let me know if this is for His glory or lead me by 
another path. I don't believe His divine Majesty would permit 
these experiences always to continue if they were not from Him. 

26. Since I am so wretched, these things and the teachings 
of so many saints give me assurance when I have these fears 
about whether or not my experiences are from God. But if when 
I'm in prayer or on the days in which I am quiet and my thoughts 
are on God, all the learned men and saints in the world were 
to join together and torture me with all the torments imaginable, 
and I wanted to believe them, I wouldn't be able to make myself 
believe that these things come from the devil; for I cannot. When 
they wanted to force me to believe that the devil was the cause, 
I feared, upon seeing who said this, and I thought they must 
be saying the truth and that I, being what I was, was being 
deceived. But at the first locution, or experience of recollection, 
or vision, all they had told me was blotted out; I couldn't do 
anything but believe God was the cause. 3 

27. Although I can realize the devil could sometimes meddle — 
and this is so, as I have seen and said — the effects he causes are 
different. And whoever has experience will not be deceived, in 
my opinion. Still, I say that even were I to believe an experience 
is certainly from God, I wouldn't do anything for any reason 
if it didn't seem to the one who has the charge over me that it 
would be for the service of our Lord. I have never thought but 
that I should obey and not be silent about anything, because 


St. Teresa of Avila 

this is good for me. 

28. I am ordinarily reprimanded for my faults, and in such 
a way that it touches me to the very core. And when there is 
or can be some danger in what I am dealing with, I receive 
counsels which are very profitable to me. Often my past sins 
are brought to memory and cause me much grief. 

29. I have gone on at great length, but it is certainly true that 
in regard to the blessings I see in myself when I come out of 
prayer I have been brief. Afterward I find that I have many im- 
perfections and that I'm useless and very wretched. Perhaps I 
don't understand the good things, but am deceived; yet, the dif- 
ference in my life is well-known and makes me reflect on what 
I have said. In all I've said, I've told what it seems to me I have 
truly experienced. 

These are the perfect qualities I feel the Lord has wrought 
in me who am so wretched and imperfect. I submit everything 
to the judgment of your Reverence since you know my entire 


(1562, probably Toledo) 1 
Detachment and other virtues flowing from God's favors 

I think more than a year has passed since I put the above in 
writing. God has kept me in His hands throughout that time, 
for I haven't become worse; rather, I see much improvement 
in what I shall describe. May He be praised for everything. 2 
2. The visions and revelations have not ceased, but they are 
much more sublime. The Lord has taught me a mode of prayer 
by which I find I make more progress and have much greater 
detachment from the things of this life, with greater courage and 
freedom. The raptures have increased. At times they come with 
an impulse and in such a way that without my being able to 
help myself they are noticeable externally, and they come even 
while I am in the company of others. They are of such a kind 
that they cannot be concealed, unless — since I suffer from heart 
sickness — I let it be thought I'm having some fainting spell. 
Although I take great care to resist them at the beginning, 

Spiritual Testimonies 


sometimes I'm unable. 

3. In the matter of poverty, I think God has bestowed on me 
great favor; for I wouldn't even want to keep what is necessary, 
unless it were an alms. And so I have a strong desire to be in 
a place where I live only on alms. It seems to me that when I'm 
in a place where I'm certain I shall not be lacking food and 
clothing, I don't fulfill as perfectly the vow, or the counsel of 
Christ, as when I'm where there will be no income and these 
things will be sometimes lacking. The blessings gained through 
true poverty I think are many, and I wouldn't want to lose them. 
I am often aware of a faith within me so great that I think God 
cannot fail anyone who serves Him. I know that there never is 
or will be any time in which His words will fail; for I cannot 
persuade myself otherwise, nor can I fear. So I feel very sad when 
they counsel me to have an income; and I turn to God. 

4. It seems to me I have much more compassion for the poor 
than I used to. I feel such great pity and desire to find relief 
for them that if it were up to me I would give them the clothes 
off my back. I feel no repugnance whatsoever toward them, 
toward speaking to or touching them. This I now see is a gift 
given by God. For even though I used to give alms for love of 
Him, I didn't have the natural compassion. I feel a very 
noticeable improvement in this matter. 

5. With regard to gossip about me, which is engaged in by 
many and to my detriment, I also experience improvement. 
What they say doesn't seem to make any more impression upon 
me than it would upon a simpleton, and it seems to me sometimes 
or almost always that they are right. I feel so little grief about 
it that I still don't think I have anything to offer God. Since I 
have experience of the great gain that comes to my soul, I rather 
think these things do me good. And so when I go to prayer, no 
feelings of hostility toward my critics remain in me. For when 
I first hear about some criticism, it causes me a little feeling of 
opposition but not disquiet or disturbance. Rather, when I 
sometimes see other persons taking pity on me, it happens that 
I laugh to myself; for all the insults in this life seem to be of 
such little consequence that there is nothing to feel sorry about. 
I imagine myself to be going about in a dream, and I see that 


St. Teresa of Avila 

upon awakening it will all amount to nothing. 

6. Through visions God gives me more intense desires, a 
greater inclination toward solitude, and much greater detach- 
ment, as I have said. For they have made me understand what 
everything is, and even made me give up friends and relatives, 
which is the smallest sacrifice; rather, relatives tire me very much. 
Since it's for the purpose of serving God a little more, I give 
them up with complete freedom and satisfaction, and so I find 
peace everywhere. 

7. Some advice I received in prayer turned out to be very true 
for me. Thus from the viewpoint of my being favored by God, 
I find I'm much improved. But from the viewpoint of my doing 
my part to serve Him, I am much more wretched; for I've had 
more consolation, because it has been offered — even though it 
frequently pains me very much — and done less penance. The 
great honor that is shown me is often directly contrary to my 


(Avila, St. Joseph's, 1563) 1 
General account of her state of soul 

It is a little more or less than nine months ago that I wrote 
the above, which is in my own handwriting. Since then, not 
turning back from the favors God granted me, it seems to me 
I have received again, insofar as I understand, much greater 
freedom. Up until now, I thought I needed others, and I had 
more trust in help from the world. Now, I understand clearly 
that all this help is like little sticks of dry rosemary and that in 
being attached to it there is no security; for when some weight 
of contradiction or criticism comes along, these little sticks break. 
So I have experience that the true remedy against a fall is to 
be attached to the cross and trust in Him who placed Himself 
upon it. I discover that He is the true friend, and through this 
friendship I find in myself a dominion by which it seems to me 
I could resist, providing God doesn't fail me, anyone who might 
be against me. 

2. Though now I understand this truth so clearly, I used to 

Spiritual Testimonies 


be very fond of being liked. No longer does being liked matter 
to me; rather, it seems in part to weary me, except in the case 
of those with whom I discuss my soul or whom I am thinking 
of helping. For I desire that the former like me so they might 
bear with me and that the latter do so that they might be more 
inclined to believe what I tell them about the vanity of everything. 

3. In the very severe trials and persecutions and opposition 
I experienced these past months, 2 God has given me great 
courage; and the greater these trials were the greater was the 
courage, without my growing tired of suffering. Toward per- 
sons who spoke evil of me, not only did I feel I bore no harsh 
feelings but it seemed to me I gained new love for them. I don't 
know how this came about; it was a blessing given by the hand 
of the Lord. 

4. It is usually my nature that when I desire something I am 
impulsive in my desire for it. Now, my desires bear with them 
such quiet that when I see them fulfilled I don't even know if 
I rejoice. Sorrow and rejoicing, except in matters of prayer, are 
completely softened in intensity; for I seem like a fool and go 
around like one for some days. 

5. The impulses to do penance that come upon me sometimes, 
and have come upon me, are great. And if I do penance, I feel 
it so little on account of that strong desire that sometimes it seems 
to me — or almost always — that penance is a special favor; 
although I don't do much since I am very sickly. 

6. It is the greatest pain for me sometimes, and now more 
extreme, to have to go to eat, especially when I'm in prayer. 
This pain must be great because it makes me weep a good deal 
and utter words of distress, almost without being aware of it, 
which I usually do not do. However great the trials I have ex- 
perienced in this life, I don't recall having said these words. I 
am not at all like a woman in such matters, for I have a robust 

7. I feel in me the greatest desire, more than usual, that God 
have persons, especially learned men, who serve Him with com- 
plete detachment and who are held back by nothing here below; 
because I see it is all a mockery. Since I'm aware of the great 
needs of the Church — for these afflict me so much that it seems 


St. Teresa of Avila 

to me silly to feel sorrow about anything else — I don't do anything 
but pray to God for these persons. For I see that one person 
who is completely perfect would do more good with a true, fer- 
vent love of God than many others would with lukewarmness. 

8. In matters of faith, I find, in my opinion, that I have much 
greater fortitude. It seems to me I would stand up alone against 
all Lutherans in order to make them understand their error. I 
greatly grieve over the perdition of so many souls. I see many 
souls that are advanced, for I know clearly God has desired their 
progress by means of me. And I recognize that through His 
goodness my soul increases each day in loving Him more. 

9. It seems to me that even were I to try to experience vain- 
glory I wouldn't be able to, nor do I see how I could think that 
any of these virtues are mine. It wasn't long ago that for many 
years I saw myself without any. And now for my part I don't 
do anything but receive favors, without serving, but as the most 
useless thing in the world. So it is that I sometimes reflect how 
all are advancing but me, that I am not worth anything. Cer- 
tainly this is not humility but truth. And knowing I am so useless, 
I sometimes become fearful in thinking I may be deceived. So 
I see clearly that from these revelations and raptures — for I play 
no part in them nor do I do anything more to receive them than 
be a blank tablet — there come to me these benefits. This gives 
me assurance and makes me more calm. I place myself in the 
arms of God, and I trust in my desires. For these desires, cer- 
tainly, I understand are to die for Him and lose all repose, come 
what may. 

10. There come days in which I recall an infinite number of 
times what St. Paul says 3 — although assuredly not present in 
me to the degree it was in him — for it seems to me I neither 
live, nor speak, nor have any desire but that He who strengthens 
and governs me might live in me. I go about as though outside 
myself, and so life is the severest pain for me. And the greatest 
thing I offer God as a principal service to Him is that, since it 
is so painful for me to live separated from Him, I desire to live, 
but out of love for Him. I should like to live with great trials 
and persecutions. Since I am no good for being of any help to 
anyone, I should like to be good for suffering so that all who 

Spiritual Testimonies 


are in the world might receive a little more merit, I mean by 
a better fulfillment of His will. 

1 1 . I haven't experienced any promise in prayer that I haven't 
seen fulfilled, even though the promise may have come many 
years previously. There are so many things I see and under- 
stand about the grandeurs of God, and of His providence, that 
almost any time I begin to think about it my intellect fails me, 
as when one sees things that are far beyond one's ability to under- 
stand; and I remain in recollection. 

12. God so guards me against offending Him that I am cer- 
tainly sometimes amazed. For I think I see the great care He 
takes of me, without my doing hardly anything. I was a sea of 
sins and iniquities before receiving these favors, and it seemed 
I was not master of myself in such a way that I could avoid them. 
The reason I would like this known is that one might have 
knowledge of the great power of God. May He be praised forever, 

13. The account that is not in my own handwriting, the one 
at the beginning, is the one I gave to my confessor, 4 and he 
copied it for himself without subtracting or adding anything. 
He was a very spiritual man and a theologian with whom I 
discussed everything about my soul. And he discussed these mat- 
ters with other learned men, among whom was Father Man- 
cio. 5 They found that none of my experiences was lacking in 
conformity with Sacred Scripture. This puts me very much at 
peace now, although I understand that as long as God leads me 
by this path I must not trust myself in anything. So I have always 
consulted others, even though I find it difficult. 

Remember that all of this must be kept under the secrecy of 
confession, as I begged your Reverence. 


(Toledo, Nov. 17, 1569) 1 
Prophecy of her death 

On November seventeenth, during the octave of St. Martin, 
in the year 1569, I saw with regard to what I know that twelve 
years had gone by out of the thirty- three, which is the number 


St. Teresa of Avila 

of years the Lord lived; so twenty-one still remained. 

This happened in Toledo, in the monastery of the glorious 
St. Joseph of Carmel. 

I for you and you for me. 


Twelve were lived for me and not for my will. 


(Toledo, 1570) 
God's standards are different from the world's 

While I was at the monastery in Toledo, some were advising 
me that I shouldn't give a burying-place to anyone who had not 
belonged to the nobility. The Lord said to me: "You will grow 
very foolish, daughter, if you look at the world's laws. Fix your 
eyes on me, poor and despised by the world. Will the great ones 
of the world, perhaps, be great before me? Or, are you to be 
esteemed for lineage or for virtue?" 

(This concerned the advice they gave me not to grant a 
burying-place in Toledo to one who did not belong to the 
nobility.) 1 


(Malagon, Feb. 9, 1570) 
Our Lord encourages her to make more foundations 
and to write their history 

Right after I received Communion, on the second day of Lent, 
in St. Joseph's at Malagon, our Lord Jesus Christ 
appeared to me in an imaginative vision, as He usually does. 
While I was gazing upon Him, I saw in place of the crown of 
thorns a crown of great brilliance on His head, there where the 
wounds must have been made. 

Since I am devoted to this episode of the Passion, I was very 
much consoled and began to think how great the torment must 
have been since there were so many wounds; and I became af- 
flicted. The Lord told me that I shouldn't grieve over those 
wounds, but over the many that were now inflicted upon Him. 

Spiritual Testimonies 


I asked Him what I could do as a remedy for this because I was 
determined to do everything I could. He told me that now was 
not the time for rest, but that I should hurry to establish these 
houses; that He found his rest with the souls living in them; that 
I should accept as many houses as given me since there were 
many persons who did not serve Him because they had no place 
for it; that those houses I founded in small towns should be like 
this one, for, by desire, as much could be merited as in the other 
houses; 1 that I should strive to put all the houses under the 
government of a superior; that I should insist that the interior 
peace not be lost through a concern for bodily sustenance; that 
He would help us so nothing would be lacking; that the sick 
especially should be cared for; that a prioress who did not pro- 
vide for and favor the sick was like Job's friends; 2 that He 
made use of the scourge for the good of souls, and that in such 
an event they should practice patience; and that I should write 
about the foundation of these houses. I thought of how in regard 
to the house at Medina I never understood anything in a way 
that I could write of its foundation. 3 He told me that that was 
all the more reason to write of it since He wanted it to be seen 
that the Medina foundation had been miraculous. He meant that 
He alone founded that house, since it had seemed absolutely im- 
possible to found. And as a result I decided to write about the 
founding of these houses. 


(Place unknown; perhaps 1570) 
A message to be given 

While thinking about what I should say regarding a message 
the Lord had given me, I didn't understand anything, even 
though I prayed to Him. And I thought that the message must 
have come from the devil. He told me that this was not so, that 
He would advise me when the time came. 1 


St. Teresa of Avila 


(Place unknown; perhaps 1570) 
Right intention and detachment 

Once while thinking of how much more purely one lives when 
withdrawn from business affairs and how when I am involved 
in them I make poor progress and commit many faults, I heard: 
"It cannot be helped, daughter; strive to have the right inten- 
tion and to be detached in all things, and look at Me so that 
what you do might be done in conformity with what I did." 


(Place unknown; probably 1570) 
Public raptures 

Once while wondering why I almost never had raptures in 
public any more, I heard: "It's not necessary now; you have 
enough approval for what I intend; 1 let us look at the weakness 
of the suspicious ones." 


(Salamanca or Alba, 1571) 
Surrender and joy in God 

One day while I was anxiously desiring to help the order, the 
Lord told me: "Do what lies in your power; surrender yourself 
to me, and do not be disturbed about anything; rejoice in the 
good that has been given you, for it is very great; my Father 
takes His delight in you, and the Holy Spirit loves you." 


(Salamanca, February, 1571) 
Take courage, the order of the Blessed Virgin will flourish 

One day the Lord told me: "You always desire trials, and on 
the other hand you refuse them. I dispose things in conformity 
with what I know is your will and not in conformity with your 
sensual nature and weakness. Take courage, since you see how 

Spiritual Testimonies 


I help you. I have desired that you win this crown. In your days 
you will see the order of the Blessed Virgin flourish." 

I heard this from the Lord in the middle of February, 1571 . 1 


(Salamanca, April 15-16, 1571) 1 
Transpiercing of the soul 

All day yesterday I felt very lonely, for except when I received 
Communion I benefited little ffom the fact that it was Easter 
Sunday. At night when I was with all the Sisters, a little song 
was sung about how hard it is to endure life without God. 2 
Since I was already afflicted, the effect upon me was so great 
that my hands began to grow numb. My efforts to resist weren't 
enough; but just as I am carried out of my senses through the 
joyous raptures, so in the same way through extreme affliction 
my soul is suspended, for it is left enraptured. And even to the 
present day, I haven't understood this. Rather, for some days 
it seemed to me that I hadn't been experiencing impulses as great 
as I previously had, and now I think the reason is this one I 
mentioned. I don't know if it could be that previously the afflic- 
tion wasn't great enough to make me go out of myself. Since 
it is so intolerable, and I was still in possession of my senses, 
it caused me to make loud cries without my being able to avoid 
doing so. Now, since the pain has increased, it has reached this 
extreme of transpiercing the soul. I have understood better what 
our Lady experienced, 3 for until today — as I say — I did not 
understand the nature of this transpiercing. The body remains 
so torn apart that even what I write today causes suffering, for 
my hands are as though disjoined and in pain. 

2 . Your Reverence can tell me when you see me whether pain 
can cause suspension and whether I experience it as it is or 
whether I'm being deceived. 

3. Even this morning I felt the pain, for while in prayer I ex- 
perienced a great rapture. And it seemed that our Lord brought 
my spirit next to His Father and said to Him; "This soul You 
have given to Me, I give to You." And it seemed the Father took 
me to Himself. This was not an imaginative vision, but it caused 


St. Teresa of Aviia 

such great certitude and had a delicacy so spiritual that I don't 
know how to describe it at all. He spoke some words I do not 
recall; certain of them were about granting me a favor. It was 
for some time that He kept me near Him. 

4. Since your Reverence went away so quickly yesterday (and 
I realize that your many occupations do not allow you time to 
be consoling me, even when necessary — for I see that Your 
Reverence's duties concern more important things), I remained 
afflicted and sad for awhile. Perhaps the loneliness I mentioned 
contributed to this. Since I don't think I'm attached to any 
creature on earth, I felt some scruple and feared lest I begin to 
lose this freedom. This sadness happened last night. And today 
our Lord responded and told me I shouldn't be surprised, that 
just as human beings desire companionship in order to com- 
municate about the joys of their sensual natures so the soul desires 
when there is someone who understands it to communicate about 
its joys and pains; and it becomes sad when there is no one. He 
told me: "He is doing well and his deeds are pleasing to Me." 

5. Since our Lord remained some time with me, I recalled 
I had told your Reverence that these visions pass away quickly. 
He told me there is a difference between this one and the im- 
aginative ones and that there couldn't be any fixed rule about 
the favors He grants us because sometimes it was fitting that 
they take place in one way and at other times in another way. 

6. One day after receiving Communion, it seemed most clear 
to me that our Lord sat beside me; and He began to console 
me with great favors, and He told me among other things: "See 
Me here, daughter, for it is I; give Me your hands." And it 
seemed He took them and placed them on His side and said: 
"Behold My wounds. You are not without Me. This short life 
is passing away." 

From certain things He told me, I understood that after He 
ascended to heaven He never came down to earth to commune 
with anyone except in the most Blessed Sacrament. 

He told me that immediately after His resurrection He went 
to see our Lady because she then had great need and that the 
pain she experienced so absorbed and transpierced her soul that 
she did not return immediately to herself to rejoice in that joy. 

Spiritual Testimonies 


By this I understood how different was this other transpiercing, 
the one of my soul. But what must have been that transpiercing 
of the Blessed Virgin's soul! He also said that He had remained 
a long time with her because it was necessary in order to con- 
sole her. 


(Avila, St. Joseph, May 29, 1571) 
An intellectual vision of the Blessed Trinity 

On the Tuesday following Ascension Thursday, having re- 
mained a while in prayer after Communion, I was grieved 
because I was so distracted I couldn't concentrate. So I com- 
plained to the Lord about our miserable nature. My soul began 
to enkindle, and it seemed to me I knew clearly in an intellec- 
tual vision that the entire Blessed Trinity was present. In this 
state my soul understood by a certain kind of representation (like 
an illustration of the truth), in such a way that my dullness could 
perceive, how God is three and one. And so it seemed that all 
three Persons were represented distinctly in my soul and that 
they spoke to me, telling me that from this day I would see an 
improvement in myself in respect to three things and that each 
one of these Persons would grant me a favor: one, the favor of 
charity; another, the favor of being able to suffer gladly; and 
the third, the favor of experiencing this charity with an enkindling 
in the soul. I understood those words the Lord spoke, that the 
three divine Persons would be with the soul in grace; 1 for I saw 
them within myself in the way described. 2 

2. While, afterward, thanking the Lord for so great a favor, 
finding myself unworthy of it, I asked His Majesty with deep 
feeling, why, since he was going to grant me favors like these, 
He had allowed me out of His hand to become so wretched? 
For on the previous day I had felt great suffering on account 
of my sins since they were in my mind. I saw clearly how much 
the Lord did on His part, from the time I was a little child, to 
bring me to Himself through very efficacious means, and how 
I didn't profit by any of them. Hence the excessive love God 
has in pardoning us for all this failure when we want to return 

392 St. Teresa of Avila 

to Him was made clearly manifest to me; and for many reasons 
this love was greater in my case than in anybody else's. 

3. It seems those three Persons, being only one God, were 
so fixed within my soul that I saw that were such divine com- 
pany to continue it would be impossible not to be recollected. 

There is no need here to put in writing some other experiences 
and words that occurred in this state. 

4. Once, a little before this, when I was about to receive Com- 
munion, and the host was still in the ciborium — for it hadn't 
been given to me yet — I saw a kind of dove that was noisily flut- 
tering its wings. It so alarmed me and caused suspension of my 
faculties that much effort was required to receive the host. This 
all happened at St. Joseph's in Avila. Father Francisco de 
Salcedo 3 gave me the Blessed Sacrament. 

5. On another day, while hearing his Mass, I saw the Lord 
glorified in the host. He told me that Father Francisco's sacrifice 
was pleasing to Him. 


(Avila, St. Joseph, June 30, 1571) 
Habitual experience of the indwelling Trinity 

I have experienced this presence of the three Persons, which 
I mentioned at the beginning, 1 up to this day which is the feast 
of the Commemoration of St. Paul. 2 They are very habitually 
present in my soul. Since I was accustomed to experience only 
the presence of Jesus, it always seemed to me there was some 
obstacle to my seeing three Persons, although I understand there 
is only one God. And the Lord told me today while I was reflect- 
ing upon this that I was mistaken in thinking of things of the 
soul through comparison with corporeal things, that I should 
know that these spiritual things are very different and that the 
soul is capable of great rejoicing. It seemed to me there came 
the thought of how a sponge absorbs and is saturated with water; 
so, I thought, was my soul which was overflowing with that 
divinity and in a certain way rejoicing within itself and possess- 
ing the three Persons. 

La!so_heardjhe^vyc^^ yourself,! 

Spiritual Testimonies 


but try to hold yourself within Me." It seemed to me that from 
within my soul — where I saw these three Persons present — these 
persons were communicating themselves to all creation without 
fail, nor did they fail to be with me. 


(Avila, St. Joseph, July 1571) 
Enclosure and the will of God 

A few days after the experiences mentioned above, while think- 
ing about whether they who thought it was wrong for me to go 
out to found monasteries might be right, and thinking that I 
would do better to be always occupied in prayer, 1 I heard the 
words: "While one is alive, progress doesn't come from trying 
to enjoy Me more but by trying to do My will." 

I thought that their recommendation would be God's will 
because of what St. Paul said about the enclosure of women, 2 
of which I was recently told and had even heard before. The 
Lord said to me: "Tell them they shouldn't follow just one part 
of Scripture but that they should look at other parts, and ask 
them if they can by chance tie my hands." 


(Avila, St. Joseph, July 10, 1571) 
Prayer for her brother Agustin de Ahumada 

One day after the octave of the feast of the Visitation 1 while 
I was in a hermitage of our Lady of Mt. Carmel praying to God 
for one of my brothers, 2 I said to the Lord (I don't know, 
perhaps I may have just thought it): "Why is my brother in a 
place where his salvation is in danger? Were I, Lord, to see Your 
brother in this danger, what wouldn't I do to help him!" It seemed 
to me that I would have left nothing undone in order to help. 

The Lord answered me: "Oh, daughter, daughter! These 
Sisters in the Incarnation are My Sisters, and you delay? Well, 
take courage; behold I want it, and it isn't as difficult as it seems 
to you. And whereas you think some harm will come to your 
houses, both they and the Incarnation will benefit. Do not resist, 


St. Teresa of Avila 

for My power is great." 3 


(Avila, St. Joseph, July 22, 1571) 
Desires for death 

The desires and impulses for death, which were so strong, have 
left me, especially since the feastday of St. Mary Magdalene; 
for I resolved to live very willingly in order to render much ser- 
vice to God. There is the exception sometimes when no matter 
how much I try to reject the desire to see Him, I cannot. 


(Avila, St. Joseph, 1571) 
Prophecy about St. Joseph's at Avila 

Once I heard: "The time will come when many miracles will 
be worked in this church; they will call it the holy church." It 
was in St. Joseph's at Avila in 1571. 


(Probably Avila, 1571) 
Penance and obedience 

Once while thinking about the severe penance Dona Catalina 
de Cardona 1 performed and about how because of the desires 
for penance the Lord sometimes gives me I could have done more 
were it not for obedience to my confessors, I thought it might 
be better not to obey them any longer in this matter. The Lord 
told me: "That's not so; you are walking on a good and safe path. 
Do you see all the penance she does? I value your obedience 


(Avila, probably 1571) 
Intellectual vision of a soul in grace and in sin 

Once while I was in prayer, the Lord showed me by a strange 

Spiritual Testimonies 


kind of intellectual vision what a soul is like in the state of grace. 
I saw this (through an intellectual vision) in the company of the 
most Blessed Trinity. From this company the soul received a 
power by which it had dominion over the whole earth. I was 
given an understanding of those words of the Song of Songs that 
say: Veniat dilectus meus in hortum suum et comedat. 1 I was also 
shown how a soul in sin is without any power, but is like a per- 
son completely bound, tied, and blindfolded; for although want- 
ing to see, such a person cannot, and cannot walk or hear, and 
remains in great darkness. Souls in this condition make me feel 
such compassion that any burden seems light to me if I can free 
one of them. I thought that by understanding this condition as 
I did — for it can be poorly explained — it wasn't possible for me 
to desire that anyone lose so much good or remain in so much 


(Avila, Incarnation, Jan. 19, 1572) 
Her vision of our Lady in the choir of the Incarnation 

On the eve of the feast of St. Sebastian, the first year in which 
I was prioress at the Incarnation, at the beginning of the Salve 
Regina, I saw the Mother of God descend with a great multitude 
of angels and sit in the prioress's choir stall where there was a 
statue of our Lady. In my opinion I didn't then see the statue 
but our Lady herself. It seemed to me she looked something like 
she does in the painting the countess gave me; 1 although the 
power to discern this was quickly taken away, for my faculties 
were soon held in great suspension. It seemed to me there were 
angels above the canopies of the stalls in the back and above 
the front stalls; although they were not in corporeal form, for 
this was an intellectual vision. 

She remained for the whole of the Salve, and she told me: "You 
were indeed right in placing me here; 2 I shall be present in the 
praises they give my Son, and I shall offer these praises to Him." 

2. After this I remained in the kind of prayer I now have, 
that of keeping my soul present with the Blessed Trinity. And 
it seemed to me that the Person of the Father drew me to Himself 


St. Teresa of Avila 

and spoke very pleasant words. Among them, while showing 
me what He wanted, He told me: "I gave you My Son, and the 
Holy Spirit, and this Blessed Virgin. What can you give Me?" 


(Probably Avila, March 30, 1572) 
Eucharistic experience 

On Palm Sunday after Communion, my faculties remained 
in such deep suspension that I couldn't even swallow the host; 
and, holding it in my mouth, after I returned a little to myself, 
it truly seemed to me that my entire mouth was filled with blood. 
I felt that my face and all the rest of me was also covered with 
this blood, as though the Lord had just then finished shedding 
it. It seemed to me warm, and the sweetness I then experienced 
was extraordinary. The Lord said to me: "Daughter, I want my 
blood to be beneficial to you, and don't be afraid that My mercy 
will fail you. I shed it with many sufferings, and you enjoy it 
with the great delight you are aware of; I repay you well for the 
banquet you prepare me this day." 

He said this because for more than thirty years I have received 
Communion on this day when possible and have striven to 
prepare my soul to give hospitality to the Lord. For it seemed 
to me cruel of the Jews, after having given Him such an en- 
thusiastic reception, to have let Him go so far away to eat; and 
I imagined I invited Him to remain with me, which was very 
bad lodging for Him, as I now see. Thus I made some foolish 
reflections. The Lord must have accepted them, because this 
is one of the visions I hold to be very certain; and so the Com- 
munion was beneficial to me. 

2. Previous to this, I believe for three days, I underwent that 
great suffering I bear, sometimes more than at other times, of 
being separated from God. During these days it had been very 
great, for it seemed I couldn't endure it. Having been in such 
anguish, I saw one evening that it was too late to eat supper, 
and so I was unable to do so. (Because of the vomitings it made 
me very weak not to have my supper earlier.) Thus with great 
effort I put the bread in front of me so as to force myself to eat 

Spiritual Testimonies 


it. At once Christ appeared there, and it seemed to me He broke 
the bread and was about to place it in my mouth when He said: 
"Eat, daughter, and bear up as best you can. What you suffer 
grieves me, but it suits you now." 

That suffering was taken away and I was consoled, for it tru- 
ly seemed that He was with me, and throughout the next day 
as well. By this experience the desire for His presence was at 
that time satisfied. 

The words "grieves me" made me stop to think because it 
doesn't seem to me He can be sorrowful over anything any more. 


(Place and date uncertain) 
Am I not your God 

"Why are you disturbed, little sinner? Am I not your God? 
Don't you see how badly I was treated there? If you love me, 
why don't you grieve for me?" 


(Avila, Incarnation, 1572) 
True humility — Put my counsels in writing 

With regard to the fear about whether or not I was in the state 
of grace, He told me: "Daughter, light is very different from 
darkness. I am faithful. Nobody will be lost unknowingly. They 
who find security in spiritual favors will be deceived. True securi- 
ty is the testimony of a good conscience. But people should not 
think that through their own efforts they can be in light or that 
they can do anything to prevent the night, because these states 
depend upon my grace. The best help for holding on to the light 
is to understand that you can do nothing and that it comes from 
me. For even though you may be in light, at the moment I 
withdraw, the night will come. This is true humility: to know 
what you can do and what I can do. 

"Don't fail to write down the counsels I give you, so that you 
don't forget them. Since you want the counsels of men in writing, 
why do you think you're losing time by writing down those I 


St. Teresa of Avila 

give you? The time will come when you will need them all." 


(Date and place uncertain) 
The nature of union 

In explaining the nature of union to me, He said: 

1 . "Don't think, daughter, that union lies in being very close 
to me. For those, too, who offend me are close, although they 
may not want to be. Neither does it consist in favors and con- 
solations in prayer, even though these may reach a very sublime 
degree. Though these favors may come from Me, they are often 
a means for winning souls, even souls that are not in the state 
of grace." 

I was experiencing a lofty elevation of the spirit when I heard 
those words. The Lord gave me understanding of what spirit 
was and in what state my soul then was and how to understand 
the words of the Magnificat, Exultavit spiritus meus. 1 I wouldn't 
know how to describe this experience. It seems to me I was given 
an understanding that the spirit is the higher part of the will. 

2. Getting back to union, I understood that it consists in the 
spirit being pure and raised above all earthly things so that there 
is nothing in the soul that wants to turn aside from God's will; 
but there is such conformity with God in spirit and will, and 
detachment from everything, and involvement with Him, that 
there is no thought of love of self or of any creature. 

3. I have thought: if this is union, then we can say of a soul 
that invariably has determination like this that it is always in 
the prayer of union. It is true that this prayer of union lasts only 
a short while. It occurred to me that with respect to walking in 
uprightness, meriting, and making progress, union does last; 
but it cannot be said that the soul is in union as it is when in 
contemplation. It seems to me I understood, although not by 
words, that the dust of our misery, faults, and impediments, in 
which we again immerse ourselves, is so great that it would be 
impossible to have the purity the spirit has when it is joined to 
God; for the spirit then leaves and rises above our wretched 
misery. And it seems to me that if this experience is union, that 

Spiritual Testimonies 

is, our will and spirit being thus made one with God's, it is im- 
possible for anyone who is not in the state of grace to have it; 
for 1 have been told it is. So it would seem to me very difficult, 
unless by a special grace from God, to understand when there 
is union since we cannot know when we are in the state of grace. 

4. Will your Reverence 2 write me your opinion and let me 
know where I am mistaken, and send this paper back to me. 


(Avila, date uncertain) 
Do not renounce what awakens love 

I read in a book that it was an imperfection to have ornate 
paintings. So I didn't want to keep one I had in my cell. Even 
before I read this it seemed to me a practice of poverty not to 
have any other images than paper ones. And since it was after 
J had formed this opinion that I read the above, I had no longer 
kept any other kind. And having forgotten about this, [ heard 
the following: that what 1 wanted to do was not a good mor- 
tification (what was better, poverty or charity?); that since love 
was the better, I shouldn't renounce anything that awakened my 
love, nor should I take such a thing away from my nuns; that 
(he book was talking about the many carvings and adornments 
surrounding the picture and not about the picture itself; that 
what the devil did among the Lutherans was take away all the 
means for awakening love, and so they went astray. ''My Chris- 
tians, daughter, must now more than ever do the opposite of 
what they do." 

I understood that I had a great obligation to serve our Lady 
and St. Joseph; for often when I went off the path completely, 
God gave me salvation again through their prayers. 


(Avila, Incarnation, June 1572) 
Spiritual improvement at the Incarnation 

On the octave day of Pentecost the Lord granted me a favor 
and gave me hope that this house would continue to improve — I 


St. Teresa of Avila 

mean that the souls in it would. 


(Avila, Incarnation, July 22, 1572) 
A favor on St. Mary Magdalene's feast 

On the feast of St. Mary Magdalene the Lord again confirmed 
in me a favor He had granted me in Toledo, choosing me in 
the place of a certain person who was absent. 1 


(Avila, Incarnation, Sept. 22, 1572) 
Infused knowledge of the Blessed Trinity 

One day, after the feast of St. Matthew, being in the state 
I'm usually in since I've seen the vision of the Blessed Trinity 
and how it dwells in a soul in the state of grace, 1 a very clear 
understanding of this mystery was granted to me so that in cer- 
tain ways and through comparisons I beheld it in an imaginative 
vision. Although at other times knowledge of the Blessed Trini- 
ty was given me through an intellectual vision, the truth, after 
a few days, no longer remained with me so that I could think 
about it and find consolation in it, as I can now. And now I 
realize that in a similar way I had heard about this truth from 
learned men but didn't understand it as I do at present, although 
I always believed it without hesitation because I have never had 
temptations against the faith. 

2. To us ignorant people it appears that all three Persons ol 
the Blessed Trinity are — as represented in paintings — in one 
Person, as when three faces are painted on one body. And thus 
we are so scared away that it seems the mystery is impossible 
and that no one should dare think about it. For the intellect Feels 
hindered and fears lest it might have doubts about this truth, 
and it thereby loses something very beneficial. 

3. What was represented to me were three distinct Persons, 
for we can behold and speak to each one. Afterward I reflected 
that only the Son took human flesh, through which this truth 
of the Trinity was seen. These Persons love, communicate with. 

Spiritual Testimonies 


and know each other. Well, if each one is by Himself, how is 
it that we say all three are one essence, and believe it? And this 
is a very great truth for which I would die a thousand deaths. 
In all three Persons there is no more than one will, one power, 
and one dominion, in such a way that one cannot do anything 
without the others. But no matter how many creatures there are, 
there is only one Creator. Could the Son create an ant without 
the Father? No, for it is all one power, and the same goes for 
the Holy Spirit; thus there is only one all-powerful God and all 
three Persons are one Majesty. Could one love the Father without 
loving the Son and the Holy Spirit? No, but anyone who pleases 
one of these three divine Persons, pleases all three, and the same 
goes for anyone who might offend one. Could the Father exist 
without the Son or without the Holy Spirit? No, because the 
essence is one; and where one is, all three are, for they cannot 
be separated. Well, how do we see that the three Persons are 
separate, and how did the Son take on human flesh and not the 
Father or the Holy Spirit? This I haven't understood. The 
theologians know. I know well that in that work so marvellous 
all three were present, and I don't get involved in thinking a 
lot about this. I immediately conclude my reflection with the 
observation that God is all-powerful and that whatever He 
wanted to do He did, and thus He will be able to do all He 
desires. And when I understand less, I believe more; and this 
belief gives me greater devotion. May He be blessed forever. 


(Place and date uncertain) 
Her mission in Carmel 

If our Lord hadn't granted me the favors He did, it doesn't 
seem to me I would have had the courage for the works that 
were done or the strength to support the trials suffered and the 
statements and judgments made against me. So after the foun- 
dations were begun, the fears I previously had in thinking I was 
deceived left me. I grew certain the work was God's, and so I 
threw myself into difficult tasks, although always with advice 


St. Teresa of Avila 

and under obedience. As a result I understand that since our 
Lord desired to revive the original spirit of this order, and in 
His mercy He took me as a means, His Majesty had to provide 
me with what I was lacking, which was everything, in order to 
get results and better manifest His greatness through so wretched 
a thing. 


(Avila, Incarnation, Nov. 18, 1572) 
Spiritual Marriage 

While at the Incarnation in the second year that I was prioress, 
on the octave of the feast of St. Martin, when I was receiving 
Communion, Father John of the Cross 1 who was giving me the 
Blessed Sacrament broke the host to provide for another Sister. 
I thought there was no lack of hosts but that he wanted to morti- 
fy me because I had told him it pleased me very much when 
the hosts were large (not that I didn't understand that the size 
made no difference with regard to the Lord's being wholly pre- 
sent, even when the particle is very small). His Majesty said 
to me: "Don't fear, daughter, for no one will be a party to 
separating you from Me," making me thereby understand that 
what just happened didn't matter. Then He appeared to me in 
an imaginative vision, as at other times, very interiorly, and He 
gave me His right hand and said: "Behold this nail; it is a sign 
you will be My bride from today on. Until now you have not 
merited this; from now on not only will you look after My honor 
as being the honor of your Creator, King, and God, but you 
will look after it as My true bride. My honor is yours, and yours 
Mine." This favor produced such an effect in me I couldn't con- 
tain myself, and I remained as though entranced. I asked the 
Lord either to raise me from my lowliness or not grant me such 
a favor; for it didn't seem to me my nature could bear it. 
Throughout the whole day I remained thus very absorbed. After- 
ward 1 felt great pain, and greater confusion and affliction at 
seeing 1 don't render any service in exchange for such amazing 

Spiritual Testimonies 



(Probably Avila, 1572) 
The way of suffering and love 

On another day the Lord told me this: "Do you think, 
daughter, that merit lies in enjoyment? No, rather it lies in work- 
ing and suffering and loving. Haven't you heard that St. Paul 
rejoiced in heavenly joys only once and that he suffered often. 
Look at my whole life filled with suffering, and only in the inci- 
dent on Mount Tabor do you hear about my joy. 1 When you 
see My Mother holding Me in her arms, don't think she enjoyed 
those consolations without heavy torment. From the time Simeon 
spoke those words to her, 2 My Father gave her clear light to 
see what I was to suffer. The great saints who lived in deserts, 
since they were guided by God, performed severe penances; and 
besides this, they waged great battle with the devil and with 
themselves. They spent long periods without any spiritual con- 
solation. Believe, daughter, that My Father gives greater trials 
to anyone whom He loves more; and love responds to these. 
How can I show you greater love than by desiring for you what 
I have desired for Myself? Behold these wounds, for your suf- 
ferings have never reached this point. Suffering is the way of 
truth. By this means you will help me weep over the loss of those 
who follow the way of the world, and you will understand that 
all your desires, cares, and thoughts must be employed in how 
to do the opposite." 

2. When I had begun prayer I had such a bad headache I 
thought it would be almost impossible to pray. The Lord said 
to me: "In this way you will see the reward that comes from suf- 
fering, for since you did not have the health to speak with Me, 
I have spoken with you and favored you." And so it is certain 
that I must have been recollected about an hour and a half. Dur- 
ing that time He spoke the above words to me and all the rest. 
I was not distracted, but neither did I know where I was; and 
I was so happy I don't know how to describe it. My headache 
went away — which surprised me — and I was left with a great 
desire for suffering. 

It is true, at least I haven't heard otherwise, that our Lord 


St. Teresa of Avila 

didn't have any joy in life other than this once, nor did St. Paul. 
The Lord also told me I should keep very much in mind the 
words He spoke to His apostles, that the servant must not be 
greater than the lord.^ 


(Place uncertain, 1572-1573) 
A prophetic vision of victory for her Carmel 

I saw a great tempest of trials and that just as the children 
of Israel were persecuted by the Egyptians, so we would be 
persecuted; but that God would bring us through dry-shod, and 
our enemies would be swallowed up by the waves. 1 


(Beas, 1575) 
A spiritual token 1 

One day when I was staying at our monastery in Beas, our 
Lord told me that since I was His bride I should make requests 
of Him, for He had promised that whatever I asked He would 
grant me. And as a token He gave me a beautiful ring, with 
a precious stone resembling an amethyst but with a brilliance 
very different from any here on earth, and He placed the ring 
on my finger. I write this with confusion at seeing the goodness 
of God and my wretched life, for I deserved hell. But, alas, 
daughters, pray for me and be devoted to St. Joseph who can 
do a great deal. I'm writing this foolishness. . . 


(Ecija, Andalusia, May 23, 1575) 1 
The vow of obedience to Father Gratian 

On the second day after Pentecost, while at Ecija, 2 a person 
was recalling a great favor she had received from our Lord on 
the vigil of this feast. 3 Desiring to do something very special in 
His service, she thought it would be good to promise from that 
time on not to hide any fault or sin she had committed in her 

Spiritual Testimonies 


whole life from the one who stood in God's place. Even though 
she had made a vow of obedience, this promise seemed to in- 
volve something more, because there's no obligation like this 
toward one's superiors. And she also promised to do all that this 
confessor might tell her — with regard to serious matters, of 
course — providing it would not go against her vow of obedience. 
And even though keeping this promise was hard for her in the 
beginning, she made it. 

2. The first reason why she decided to do so was the thought 
that she was rendering some service to the Holy Spirit; the sec- 
ond was that she chose a person who was a great servant of God 
and a learned man, who would help her serve the Lord more. 

This learned man knew nothing about the above until some 
days after she had made the promise. He was Friar Jerome 
Gratian of the Mother of God. 


(Beas, April, 1575) 
The vow of obedience to Father Gratian 

Material having to do with my conscience and soul. Let no 
one read it even though I be dead, but give it to the Father Master 


1. In 1575, during the month of April, while I was at the foun- 
dation in Beas, it happened that the Master Friar Jerome Gratian 
of the Mother of God came there. I had gone to confession to 
him at times, but I hadn't held him in the place I had other con- 
fessors, by letting myself be completely guided by him. One day 
while I was eating, without any interior recollection, my soul 
began to be suspended and recollected in such a way that I 
thought some rapture was trying to come upon me; and a vision 
appeared with the usual quickness, like a flash of lightning. 

2. It seemed to me our Lord Jesus Christ was next to me in 
the form in which He usually appears, and at His right side stood 
Master Gratian himself, and I at His left. The Lord took our 
right hands and joined them and told me He desired that I take 
this master to represent Him as long as I live, and that we both 


St. Teresa of Avila 

agree to everything because it was thus fitting. 

3. I remained with very great assurance that the vision was 
from God. The remembrance of the two confessors I had gone 
to and followed for a long time and to whom I owed a great deal 
made me undecided. The remembrance of one especially made 
me put up strong resistance, since it seemed to me I was offen- 
ding him; for I had great respect and love for him. In spite of 
this I felt assurance from the vision that such an action suited 
me, and also comfort coming from the thought that this going 
about consulting different minds with different opinions was now 
to end. For some, by not understanding me, made me suffer 
very much; although I never gave up any of them until either 
they moved away or I did, because I thought the fault was mine. 
Twice more the Lord returned to tell me in different words not 
to fear since He gave Master Gratian to me. So I resolved not 
to do otherwise, and I made the proposal within myself to carry 
out the Lord's request for the rest of my life, to follow Father 
Gratian's opinion in everything as long as it wasn't cleariy of- 
fensive to God — and I was certain it would not be; for, accor- 
ding to some things I have heard, I believe he has made the same 
promise I have made, of doing the more perfect thing in all 

4. I was left with a peace and comfort so great 1 was amazed, 
and I felt certain the Lord wanted this, for it doesn't seem to 
me the devil could give such great peace and comfort of soul. 
It seems to me I remained outside myself in a way 1 don't know 
how to describe, but each time I recall this vision I again praise 
our Lord and remember that verse which says, Qui po suit fines 
suos in pace; 1 and I want to be consumed in the praises of God. 

It seems to me this promise must be for His glory, and so I 
again propose never to make a change. 

5. The second day of Pentecost, after this resolution, while 
on our way to Seville, we heard Mass in a hermitage in Ecija- 
and remained there for siesta. While my companions were in 
the hermitage and I was alone in the sacristy there, I began to 
think of the wonderful favor the Holy Spirit had granted me on 
the vigil of that feast of Pentecost. 3 Great desires came over me 
to render Him a special service, but I couldn't find anything that 

Spiritual Testimonies 


wasn't done. I recalled that although I had made a vow of obe- 
dience, it wasn't of a kind I could obey with perfection; and the 
thought came to me that it would be pleasing to the Holy Spirit 
to promise what I had proposed in regard to the friar, Father 
Jerome. On the one hand it seemed to me I wouldn't be doing 
anything by such a promise, and on the other hand it struck 
me as something very arduous when I reflected that with 
superiors you don't reveal your interior state; and that if you 
don't get along well with one superior, there is finally a change, 
and another one comes along; and that this promise would mean 
remaining without any freedom either interiorly or exteriorly 
throughout life. 4 And I felt pressed a little, and even very 
much, not to go through with it. 

6. This very resistance that my thoughts caused in my will 
reproached me. It seemed to me there was already something 
presenting itself to me that I wasn't doing for God and which 
I had always fled. The fact is the difficulty so bothered me I don't 
think I did anything in my life, not even in making profession, 
over which I felt within myself greater resistance, except when 
I left my father's house to become a nun. This resistance was 
the reason I didn't consider my love for this Father; but rather, 
I then considered the matter as though it regarded a stranger. 
Nor did I consider his good qualities, but only whether it would 
be good to make this promise for the Holy Spirit. The doubts 
that arose as to whether or not it would be of service to God, 
I believe, caused me to delay. 

7. At the end of a period of battle, the Lord gave me great 
confidence so that it seemed to me I made that promise for the 
Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit was obliged to give the Father 
light so that he in turn might give it to me. It also seemed I was 
to recall that it was our Lord Jesus Christ who had given me 
the light. And at this point I knelt down and promised that for 
the rest of my life I would do everything Master Gratian might 
tell me, as long as there was nothing in opposition to God or 
my superiors to whom I was obliged. It was my intention that 
this would apply only in serious matters so as to avoid scruples; 
for example, when I insist with Father Jerome about some trifl- 
ing thing in regard to his comfort or mine, and he in turn tells 


St. Teresa of Avila 

me not to speak of it any more. For such insistence implies no 
lack of obedience or intention to hide knowingly any of my faults 
or sins. And not hiding these also involves more than what one 
is obliged to with superiors. In sum, it was my intention to hold 
him in the place of God, interiorly and exteriorly. 

8. I don't know if I merited, but it seemed to me I did 
something great for the Holy Spirit, at least all I knew how; and 
so I remained with great satisfaction and happiness, and I have 
remained so since then. And although I feared I might be 
restricted, I was left with greater freedom; and I was more con- 
fident our Lord would grant Father Gratian new favors for this 
service I rendered to God and that I might share in them and 
receive light in everything. 

Blessed be He who created a person who so pleased me that 
I could dare do this. 


(Place and year uncertain, July 22) 
Desire to live and serve the Lord 

On the feast of St. Mary Magdalene while I was reflecting 
on the friendship with our Lord I'm obliged to maintain and 
also on the words He spoke to me about this saint, 1 and hav- 
ing insistent desires to imitate her, the Lord granted me a great 
favor and told me that from now on I should try hard, that I 
was going to have to serve Him more than I did up to this point. 
This favor gave me the desire not to die so soon, that I might 
have time to be occupied in His service, and I was left with strong 
determination to suffer. 


(Place and date uncertain) 
Locution about Father Gratian 

One day I was very recollected in recommending Eliseus 1 to 
God. I heard, "He is my true son, I shall not cease to help him," 
or some words to this effect which I don't remember well. 

Spiritual Testimonies 



(Seville, Aug. 9, 1575) 
Establishing a feast of our Lady 

On the vigil of St. Lawrence, just after receiving Commu- 
nion, my mental faculties were so scattered and distracted I 
couldn't help myself, and I began to envy those who live in deserts 
and to think that since they don't hear or see anything they are 
free of this wandering of the mind. I heard: "You are greatly 
mistaken, daughter; rather, the temptations of the devil there 
are stronger; be patient, for as long as you live, a wandering 
mind cannot be avoided." 

2. While I was in this state, there suddenly came upon me 
a recollection with an interior light so great it seemed I was in 
another world. And my spirit found within itself a very delightful 
forest and garden, so delightful it made me recall what is said 
in the Song of Songs: Veniat dilectus mens in hortum suum. 1 I saw 
my Eliseus there, certainly not in any way black, but with a 
strange beauty. On his head was what resembled a garland of 
precious stones, and many maidens went before him with bran- 
ches in their hands singing songs of praise to God. I didn't do 
anything but open my eyes so as to distract myself, and this wasn't 
enough to take away my attention. It seemed to me there was 
music from small birds and angels in which the soul rejoiced; 
although I didn't hear it, but the soul was experiencing that 
delight. I observed how there was no other man there. I was 
told; "He deserved to be among you, and this whole festival you 
see will be had on the day when the feast in praise of my Mother 
will be established, 2 and hurry if you wish to be where he is." 

3. Bringing me great delight, this vision lasted more than an 
hour and a half, for J couldn't distract myself; it was different 
from other visions. And what I drew from this was love for Eliseus 
and a remembrance of him in that beauty. I had feared lest it 
be a temptation, for it was impossible that it be the work of my 


St. Teresa of Avila 


(Probably Seville, second half of 1575) 
God's omnipresence 

One time I understood how the Lord was present in all things, 
and how in the soul, and I thought of the example of a sponge 
which absorbs water. 1 


(Seville, August, 1575) 
The constitutions and the Lord's law 

Since my brothers had come and I owe so much to one of them, 
I didn't cease being with this one and discussing what was suited 
to his soul and state; 1 and this all made me weary and uneasy. 
While offering these actions to the Lord and thinking I was thus 
obliged, I recalled that our constitutions tell us we should keep 
away from relatives. 2 Thinking about whether I was obliged to 
follow these constitutions in this matter, the Lord told me: "No, 
daughter, for your institutions must be in conformity with My 
law." Indeed, the intention of the constitutions is that there be 
no attachment to relatives. And, in my opinion, it tires and 
wearies me more to converse with them. 


(Seville, Aug. 28, 1575) 
Infused knowledge of the Trinity 

After having received Communion on the feast of St. 
Augustine, I understood — I'm unable to say how — and almost 
saw (although it was something intellectual and passed quickly) 
how the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, which I bear im- 
printed in my soul, are one. By means of the strangest painting 
and a very clear light, I was given an understanding that was 
an activity very different from merely holding this truth by faith. 
As a result I haven't been able to think of any of the three divine 
Persons without thinking of all three. Thus I was reflecting to- 
day upon how, since they were so united, the Son alone could 

Spiritual Testimonies 


have taken human flesh; and the Lord gave me understanding 
of how although they are united they are distinct. These are 
grandeurs which make the soul again desire to be free from this 
body that hinders their enjoyment. For although it seems our 
lowliness was not meant for understanding anything about them, 
the soul, without knowing how, receives incomparably greater 
benefit from this understanding even though it lasts only a 
moment — than from many years of meditation. 


(Seville, Sept. 8, 1575) 
Renewal of vows in our Lady's hands 

On the feast of the Nativity of our Lady I feel special joy. 
When this day comes, I think it's good to renew my vows. And 
once while I was about to do so, the Blessed Virgin, our Lady, 
appeared to me through an illuminative vision; and it seems to 
me I renewed them in her hands and that they were pleasing 
to her. This vision remained with me for some days, as though 
she were next to me at my left. 


(Probably Seville, 1575) 
Union with Christ in the Eucharist 

One day after having received Communion, I truly thought 
my soul was made one with the most sacred Body of the Lord. 
He appeared to me and by His presence caused me to make much 


(Seville, late 1575) 
The reform of the monastery of Paterna 

I was once thinking about whether they were going to send 
me to reform a certain monastery, and this troubled me. I heard: 
"What do you fear? What can you lose but the lives you have 
so often offered me? I shall help you." It happened on a certain 


St. Teresa of Avila 

occasion in such a way that my soul was much satisfied. 1 


(Seville, late 1575) 
An effect of the spiritual marriage 

Having spoken one day to a person who had given up a great 
deal for God and recalling how I had never given up anything 
for Him — nor have I ever served Him in accordance with my 
obligation — and considering the many favors he had bestowed 
on my soul, I began to grow very anxious. And the Lord said: 
"You already know of the epousal between you and Me. Because 
of this epousal, whatever I have is yours. So I give you all the 
trials and sufferings I underwent, and by these means, as with 
something belonging to you, you can make requests of my 
Father." Although I had heard we share these, now I had heard 
it in such a different way that it seemed I felt great dominion. 
The friendship in which this favor was granted me cannot be 
described here. It seemed to me the Father accepted the fact of 
this sharing; and since then I look very differently upon what 
the Lord suffered, as something belonging to me — and it gives 
me great comfort. 1 


(Probably Seville, 1575) 
The value of good works 

Once while desiring to render some service to our Lord, I was 
thinking about how little I was able to do for Him and I said 
to myself: "Why, Lord, do You desire my works?" He answered: 
"In order to see your will, daughter." 


(Seville, perhaps 1575) 
The Lord tells her to record His words 

Once the Lord granted me light on a matter it pleased me 
to know about. Soon afterward I forgot, for I couldn't again 

Spiritual Testimonies 


remember what it was. And while trying to recall it I heard this: 
"You already know I sometimes speak to you; don't neglect to 
write down what I say; for even though it may not benefit you, 
it can benefit others." I was wondering whether I was to be helpful 
to others but on account of my sins be lost myself. He said to 
me: "Have no fear." 


(Probably Seville, 1575) 
God's presence in the soul 

Once while I was recollected in this company I always bear 
with me in my soul, God seemed so present to me that I thought 
of St. Peter's words: You are Christ, Son of the Living God. 1 For 
God was thus living in my soul. This presence is not like other 
visions, because it is accompanied by such living faith that one 
cannot doubt that the Trinity is in our souls by presence, power, 
and essence. It is an extremely beneficial thing to understand 
this truth. Since I was amazed to see such majesty in something 
so lowly as my soul, I heard: "It is not lowly, daughter, for it 
is made in My image." I also understood some things about why 
God delights to be with souls more than with other creatures. 
These matters were so subtle that even though my intellect 
understood them immediately, I shall not be able to explain them. 


(Seville, probably 1575) 
Father Gratian's health 

Having been so distressed over our Father's health that I 
couldn't be at peace, and begging the Lord very emphatically 
one day after Communion that since He had given our Father 
to me He not allow me to be without him, the Lord told me: 
"Don't be afraid." 


St. Teresa of A Vila 


(Seville, 1575) 
The indwelling of the Blessed Trinity 

Once while with this presence of the three Persons that I carry 
about in my soul, I experienced so much light you couldn't doubt 
the living and true God was there. In this state He gave me 
understanding of things I didn't know how to speak of afterward. 
Among them was how the Person of the Son, and not the others, 
took flesh. As I say, I wouldn't know how to explain any of these 
things. For some of them take place so secretly in the soul that 
it seems the intellect understands as in the case of a person who 
while sleeping or half asleep thinks that what is spoken is 
understood within. I was reflecting upon how arduous a life this 
is that deprives us of being always in that wonderful company, 
and I said to myself, "Lord, give me some means by which I 
can put up with this life." He replied: "Think, daughter, of how 
after it is finished you will not be able to serve me in ways you 
can now. Eat for Me and sleep for Me, and let everything you 
do be for Me, as though you no longer lived but I; for this is 
what St. Paul was speaking of." 1 


(Probably Seville, 1575) 
Deep secrets revealed in Communion 

Once after receiving Communion I was given understanding 
of how the Father receives within our soul the most holy Body 
of Christ, and of how 1 know and have seen that these divine 
Persons are present, and of how pleasing to the Father this of- 
fering of His Son is, because He delights and rejoices with Him 
here — let us say — on earth. For His humanity is not present with 
us in the soul, but His divinity is. Thus the humanity is so 
welcome and pleasing to the Father and bestows on us so many 
favors. I understood that He also receives this sacrifice from the 
priest who is in sin, except that He doesn't grant to his soul the 
favors He grants to those who are in the state of grace. But the 
reason for this isn't because these influences proceeding from 

Spiritual Testimonies 


this communication, by which the Father receives this sacrifice, 
lose their force, but because of a lack on the part of the one receiv- 
ing it; just as the lack is not on the part of the sun when it fails 
to shine on a piece of pitch as it does on crystal, but on the part 
of the pitch. If I could now describe this, I would give a better 
explanation. It is important to know the nature of this com- 
munication, for there are deep interior secrets revealed when 
one receives Communion. It is a pity that these bodies of ours 
do not let us enjoy them. 


(Seville, Nov. 8, 1575) 
Intellectual vision of the Lord's nearness 

On the octave day of All Saints I spent two or three very 
troublesome days over the remembrance of my great sins and 
because of some fears of my being persecuted that had no foun- 
dation, except that false testimony was going to be raised. 1 And 
all the courage I usually have for suffering left me. Although 
I wanted to encourage myself, and I made acts and reflected 
that this suffering would be very beneficial to my soul, all these 
actions helped me little. For the fear didn't go away, and what 
I felt was a vexing war. I chanced upon a letter in which my 
good Father 2 refers to what St. Paul says, that God does not 
permit us to be tempted beyond what we can suffer/' That 
comforted me a lot, but it wasn't enough. Rather, the next day 
I became sorely afflicted in seeing I was without him, since I 
had no one to whom I could have recourse in this tribulation. 
It seemed to me I was living in great loneliness, and this loneliness 
increased when I saw that there was no one now but him who 
might give me comfort and that he had to be absent most of 
the time, which was a great torment to me. 1 

2. On the next night, while reading in a book a saying of St. 
Paul which began to console me, I was thinking of how present 
our Lord had previously been to me, for He had so truly seemed 
to be the living God. While I was thinking about this, He ap- 
peared in an intellectual vision, very deep within me, as though 
on the side where the heart is, and said: "Here I am, but I want 


St. Teresa of Avila 

you to see what little you can do without Me." 

3. I felt reassured right away, and all my fears were gone. 
While I was at Matins that same night, the Lord, through an 
intellectual vision so intense it almost seemed to be an imaginative 
one, placed Himself in my arms as in the painting of the fifth 
agony. 5 This vision caused me great fear. For it was so clear, 
and He was so close to me that I wondered if it was an illusion. 
He told me: "Don't be surprised by this, for My Father is with 
your soul in an incomparably greater union." 

This vision has so remained up till now. What I said of our 
Lord lasted more than a month. Now it is gone. 


(Seville, 1575) 
Vision of Father Gratian 

One night I was very distressed because it had been a long 
time since I had heard from my Father, and he had not been 
well when he last wrote. My affliction though was not like it had 
been when I first heard of his illness; for now I had confidence, 
and I was never as distressed as I had been the first time. 1 But 
my concern hindered my prayer. He suddenly appeared to me, 
and in such a way that it couldn't have been my imagination. 
For a light appeared in the interior of my soul, and I beheld 
him coming along the road, happy and with a white countenance. 
Although by reason of the light by which I saw he had to have 
a white countenance, it seems to me that so do all those who 
are in heaven. And I wondered if the light and brilliance that 
comes from our Lord makes them white. 1 heard: "Tell him to 
begin at once without fear, for his is the victory." 

2. The day after he came, while I was praising our Lord at 
night for having granted me so many favors, the Lord said to 
me: "What do you ask of Me, my daughter, that I do not do?" 

Spiritual Testimonies 



(Seville, Nov. 21, 1575) 
The feast of the Presentation of our Lady in the temple 

On the day the brief was presented, 1 while I was anxiously 
waiting, I was all troubled and couldn't even pray vocally. For 
they had come to tell me our Father's life was in danger. It wasn't 
allowed for him to leave the monastery and there were so many 
rumors. I heard these words: "O woman of little faith! Be calm, 
for things are going very well." 

2. It was the feast of the Presentation of our Lady, in the year 
1575. I resolved within myself that if the Virgin would obtain 
from her Son that we see both our Father and ourselves freed 
from these friars, I would ask our Father for an indult that in 
all of our monasteries of the discalced nuns this feast could be 
celebrated with solemnity. 

3. When I made this resolve I didn't recall what I had heard 
in the vision I'd seen, that the Father would establish a feast.' 
Now in turning back to read this little notebook, I have wondered 
if the feast could be this one of the Presentation. 


(Seville, 1575 or 1576) 
Infused understanding of a Magnificat verse 

While in prayer one day, I felt my soul to be so deep in God 
that it didn't seem there was a world; but while immersed in 
Him, understanding of that Magnificat verse, et exultavit 
spiritus, 1 was given to me in such a way I cannot forget it. 


(Seville, spring, 1576) 
Revelation about the survival of her Carmel 

I was once thinking about their desire to suppress this 
monastery of discalced nuns, and of whether it was their inten- 
tion little by little to put an end to them all. I heard: "They are 
attempting this, but will not succeed — on the contrary." 


St. Teresa of Avila 


(Seville, 1576) 
Account of her spiritual life for the Inquisitor of Seville 1 

Forty years ago this nun took the habit. And from the begin- 
ning she has turned her thoughts to the mysteries and the 
Passion of our Lord and to her sins without ever thinking about 
supernatural experiences; rather, she has thought about how 
quickly creatures or things come to an end. And she has spent 
some periods of the day reflecting on these matters without it 
even passing through her mind to desire anything more, for her 
opinion of herself has been such that she has seen that she doesn't 
deserve even to think about God. 

2. She spent about twenty-two years in this way with great 
dryness, devoting time also to reading good books. It was eight- 
een years ago that she began to discuss — about three years before 
the actuality — her first monastery of discalced nuns which she 
founded in Avila. For, as it seemed to her, she began sometimes 
to receive interior locutions, and she saw some visions and ex- 
perienced revelations. She never saw anything, nor has seen 
anything, of these visions with her bodily eyes. Rather, the 
representation came like a lightning flash, but it left as great an 
impression upon her and as many effects as it would if she had 
seen it with her bodily eyes, and more so. 

3. She was terrified, for sometimes she didn't even dare re- 
main alone during the day. Since she couldn't avoid the ex- 
periences no matter how much she tried, she went about ter- 
ribly afflicted, fearing lest she be deceived by the devil. She began 
to discuss the matter with spiritual persons of the Society of Jesus, 
among whom were: Father Araoz 2 who happened to go to 
Avila, for he was the commissary of the Society of Jesus; Father 
Francis, 5 with whom she spoke twice, who had been duke of 
Gandfa; a provincial of the Society, named Gil Gonzalez, 1 who 
is now in Rome and one of the four counselors; also the present 
provincial of Castile, although she did not speak so much with 
him; Baltasar Alvarez/ 1 who is now rector in Salamanca and 
who was her confessor for six years; the rector at Cuenca, named 
Salazar; b and, not for long, the rector at Segovia, named San- 

Spiritual Testimonies 


tander; 7 the rector at Burgos, whose name is Ripalda, 8 who 
was even very unfavorable to her until she talked with him; Doc- 
tor Pablo Hernandez of Toledo, 9 who was a consultant to the 
Inquisition; and another, Ordonez, 10 who was rector at Avila. 
In short, wherever she went she sought out those who were most 

4. She spoke frequently with Friar Peter of Alcantara, 11 and 
it was he who did a great deal for her. 

5. During this time (for more than six years), she was put to 
the test, shed many tears, and underwent much affliction; and 
the greater the trials the more favors she received. Often she 
experienced suspension of the faculties while in prayer, and even 
outside of it. Many prayers were said and Masses offered that 
God might lead her by another path, for she had the greatest 
fear when she was not in prayer, although in all things touching 
upon the service of God she clearly understood there was im- 
provement, and no vainglory or pride. On the contrary, she felt 
embarrassed before those who knew about the favors, and regret- 
ted speaking about these favors more than she did speaking about 
her sins; for it seemed to her that her confessors would laugh 
at her and attribute these favors to the foolish things of women. 

6. It was about thirteen years ago, a little more or less, that 
the Bishop of Salamanca went there, for he was the Inquisitor, 
I believe, in Toledo and had been here. 12 For the sake of 
greater assurance she arranged to speak with him and gave him 
an account of everything. He told her this whole matter was 
something that didn't belong to his office because all that she 
saw and understood strengthened her ever more in the Catholic 
faith. For she always was and is firm in the faith, and she ex- 
periences the strongest desires for the honor of God and the good 
of souls. These desires are such that for one soul she would allow 
herself to be killed many times. Since he saw she was so con- 
cerned, he told her she should write to Master Avila 13 — who 
was alive — a long account of everything, for he was a man who 
understood much about prayer; and that with what he would 
write her, she could be at peace. She did so, and he replied giv- 
ing her much assurance. Her account 14 was of such a kind that 
all the learned men who saw it — for they were her confessors — 


St. Teresa of Avila 

said it was very helpful for information about spiritual things. 
They ordered her to make a copy and write another little book 
for her daughters 13 in which she could give some counsels, for 
she was prioress. 

7. In spite of all this, she was not without fears at times, and 
it seemed to her that spiritual people could be deceived as well 
as she. She wanted to speak with very learned men, even though 
they might not be given to prayer, for she only wanted to know 
whether all her experiences were in conformity with Sacred Scrip- 
ture. And she was sometimes consoled, thinking that even though 
she may have deserved to be deceived because of her sins, God 
would not permit so many persons to be deceived since they 
desired to give her light. 

8. With this thought in mind she began to discuss these favors 
with Dominican Fathers because previous to such experiences 
she often had these Fathers as confessors. The following are the 
ones whom she consulted. Friar Vicente Barron 16 was her con- 
fessor for a year and a half in Toledo, when she was there for 
a foundation, for he was consultant to the Inquisition and a very 
learned man. He gave her much assurance. (And all of them 
told her that since she didn't offend God and knew she was 
wretched, she had nothing to fear.) The Master, Friar Domingo 
Bariez 17 (who is now consultant to the Holy Office in 
Valladolid) was her confessor for six years, and she always kept 
in contact with him by letter when something new presented 
itself. She consulted with Master Chaves. 18 Besides Friar Dom- 
ingo Banez, she consulted Friar Pedro Ibariez, 14 who was then 
a professor in Avila and a most learned man; and another 
Dominican whose name was Friar Garcia de Toledo. 20 She 
consulted the Father Master, Friar Bartolome de Medina, 21 
who has a professor's chair at Salamanca, and who she knew 
had a very bad opinion of her because he had heard about these 
experiences. And she thought he better than anyone would tell 
her if she were being deceived. She consulted him a little more 
than two years ago when she came to Salamanca. She arranged 
to go to confession to him and gave him a long account of 
everything, and she provided that he see what she had written 
so that he might understand her life better. He assured her very 

Spiritual Testimonies 


much — more than all of them — and became her close friend. 
She also made her confession for a time to the Father Master, 
Friar Felipe de Meneses, 22 when she went to Valladolid for a 
foundation and he was the prior or rector of that College of St. 
Gregory. Having heard about these things, he went with great 
charity to speak to her in Avila, wanting to know if she was be- 
ing deceived, and pointing out that if she wasn't, there was no 
reason for so much criticism of her; and he was very satisfied. 
She also took the matter up with a Dominican provincial, nam- 
ed Salinas, 23 who was a very spiritual man and a great servant 
of God; and with another professor, now in Segovia, named Friar 
Diego de Yanguas, 24 who has a truly keen mind. 

9. During so many years in which she was subject to those 
fears, she had the opportunity to consult with others, especially 
since she went to so many places for foundations. They all tested 
her because they all wanted to be certain in giving her light; 
by this light they assured her and were assured themselves. 

10. She ever was and ever is subject to all that the holy Catholic 
faith holds, and all her prayer and the prayer in the houses she 
has founded is for the increase in the faith. She used to say that 
if any of her experiences were to induce her to turn against the 
Catholic faith or the law of God, she would have no need to go 
in search of proof, for then she would see it was the devil. 

1 1 . She never did anything based on what she understood in 
prayer. Rather, if her confessors told her to do the contrary, 
she did it immediately, and always informed them about 
everything. She never believed so decidedly that an experience 
was from God that, no matter how much they told her it was, 
she would swear to the fact; although by reason of the effects 
and great favors that were granted her in some matters, the ex- 
perience may have seemed to her to be from the good spirit. 
But she always desired virtues, and this desire she urged upon 
her nuns, saying that the most humble and mortified would be 
the most spiritual. 

12. What she has written 25 she gave to the Father Master, 
Friar Domingo Banez, who is in Valladolid. For it is with him 
that she more often discusses and has discussed these experiences. 
She thinks he has presented her written account to the Holy 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Office in Madrid. 26 In all of it she submits to the correction of 
the Catholic faith and of the Church. No one has blamed her, 
for these experiences are not within anyone's power; and our 
Lord doesn't ask the impossible. 

13. Since an account was given to so many because of the great 
fear she was undergoing, many of these experiences were told 
around, which was for her an extraordinary torment and cross. 
She says that this suffering was not caused by humility but by 
the fear that these things would be attributed to women's fancy. 
She went to the extreme of not submitting herself to the judg- 
ment of any person who she thought believed that everything 
was from God, for she feared that then the devil would deceive 
both him and her. She discussed her soul more willingly with 
anyone who she saw was more fearful, although it also caused 
her grief to deal with those who completely despised these 
experiences — they did so to try her — for some of these seemed 
to her to be very much from God. And she did not want them 
to give definite condemnation of the experiences simply because 
they didn't see any reason for them. Nor did she want them to 
act as though everything were from God, for she understood very 
well that there could be some deception. For this reason it never 
seemed to her that she could have complete assurance where there 
could be danger. She tried as hard as she could not to offend 
God in anything and always to obey. By these two means she 
thought she could free herself even if her experience were from 
the devil. 

14. From the time she began to receive supernatural ex- 
periences, her spirit was always inclined to seek what was most 
perfect, and it almost habitually had great desires for suffering. 
In persecutions — for she experienced many — she found consola- 
tion and a special love for her persecutors. There was a great 
desire for poverty and solitude, and to leave this exile so as to 
see God. Because of these effects and other similar ones, she 
began to grow calm since it seemed to her that a spirit that left 
these virtues in her would not be bad. And those with whom 
she discussed this idea agreed. However, this thought didn't make 
her stop fearing; but it did help her to advance with less worry. 
Never did her spirit persuade her to hide anything, but always 

Spiritual Testimonies 


to obey. 

15. She never saw anything with her bodily eyes, as has been 
said. But what she saw was so delicate and intellectual that 
sometimes at the beginning she thought she had imagined it; 
at other times she couldn't think such a thing. Nor did she ever 
hear with her bodily ears — except twice; and these times she 
didn't hear what was being said, nor did she know. 

16. These experiences were not continual, but only came 
sometimes when there was a need, as once when she endured 
for some days certain unbearable interior torments and a distur- 
bing inner fear about whether the devil was deceiving her, as 
is explained more at length in the account of her life and also 
of her sins, in which her sins were made public as were her other 
experiences. That time, her fear made her forget her worth. And 
while in this indescribable state of affliction, merely by hearing 
the words within, "It is I, do not be afraid," the soul was left 
so quiet and courageous and confident that it couldn't unders- 
tand where such a great blessing came from. For neither her 
confessor nor many learned men with many words sufficed to 
give her that peace and quiet that were given with these words; 
nor did these learned men suffice at other times, until she was 
strengthened by some vision. Without this strength she would 
have been unable to suffer such great trials, contradictions, and 
sicknesses, which have been without number. And it happens 
that she is never without some kind of suffering. There is more 
and less of it; but ordinarily there are always pains with much 
other sickness, although since she has been a nun she has been 
afflicted with more suffering. 

17. If some service she renders the Lord or the favors He grants 
her suddenly come to mind, even though she frequently recalls 
the favors, she cannot think of them for long as she can of her 
sins, which are always tormenting her like foul-smelling mud. 
That she committed so many sins and served God so little must 
be the reason she is not tempted to vainglory. 

18. She was never persuaded concerning any spiritual ex- 
perience of hers unless it was completely clean and chaste, and 
there was above all a great fear of offending God our Lord and 
the desire to do His will in everything. This latter she begs of 


St. Teresa of Avila 

Him always. And in her opinion she is so determined not to turn 
from His will that there is nothing her confessors or superiors 
might tell her about what they think would be of service to God 
that she would fail to carry out, confident that the Lord helps 
those who are resolved to render Him service and glory. 

19. Relative to this service, she no more thinks of herself or 
of her own gain than if she did not exist, insofar as she and her 
confessors understand concerning herself. Everything on this 
paper is the full truth, and your Reverence can check with her 
confessors if you want, and with all the persons who have dealt 
with her during the past twenty years. Very habitually, her spirit 
moves her to the praises of God; and she would want everyone 
to be praising Him even were this to cost her a great deal. That 
all be praising Him is the source of her desire for the good of 
souls. And upon seeing how the exterior things of this world are 
like dung, and how precious the interior are — for the two are 
incomparable — she has come to have little esteem for the things 
of the world. 

20. The kind of vision your Reverence asked me about is a 
kind in which nothing is seen, neither interiorly nor exteriorly, 
because the vision is not an imaginative one. But without see- 
ing anything, the soul understands who it is — and even where 
the representation is — more clearly than if it saw the person, 
except that nothing in particular is represented. It's as though 
we were to feel that another is beside us, and because it is dark 
don't see that person; yet certainly we know the other is there. 
However this comparison is insufficient, for one who is in 
darkness knows in some way, either by hearing a noise or hav- 
ing seen the person before, that